Are classical liberals and libertarians the same?

A few years ago I tried to explain why I felt more comfortable with the label ‘classical liberal’ than ‘libertarian’. The Australian political identity survey can help see if the distinctions I was trying to make hold up.

One of my claims was that libertarians tend towards a rights-based view of politics. Consistent with this, 59% of the 184 libertarians in the survey supported either a constitutional bill of rights or a statutory charter of rights. By contrast, 52% of the 256 classical liberals preferred leaving the protection of individual freedoms to the democratic system, which among other things allows broader considerations to be taken into account. (Charts containing classical liberal and libertarian views compared, and further analysis can be found here.) However, a large minority of classical liberals want freedoms to be protected by the courts, and a large minority of libertarians preferred the democratic system.

Across most issues, there was a pattern of classical liberals and libertarians being on the same side of a broad debate but with libertarians taking the more radical stance. For example, while 40% of classical liberals chose the most radical option of cutting tax as a proportion of GDP to 20% or less, 57% of libertarians chose that option. While 46% of classical liberals thought that minimum wage laws should be repealed, 59% of libertarians took that view. While 50% of classical liberals would legalise marijuana entirely, 65% of libertarians would do so. As I said in 2006, ‘if libertarianism and classical liberalism are not identical twins they are at least first cousins, which is why classical liberals can end up appearing like “moderate” libertarians.’

As these numbers indicate, while general knowledge of the pro-freedom, pro-market ideologies of classical liberalism and libertarianism lets us predict what side of an issue most respondents will be on, for many issues significant numbers of respondents do not take their ideological logic to its most extreme conclusion. Many take a more ‘moderate’ view, and on some issues surprisingly large minorities take an opposing view.

For example, 38% of classical liberals and 27% of libertarians support a state or national curriculum. A government monopoly to indoctrinate young people sounds like an improbable conclusion from classical liberal or libertarian first principles. Yet even narrowing the sample to strong supporters only, still 25% of classical liberals and 17% of libertarians supported monopoly curriculum. Very large minorities of both groups also support compulsory voting.

While classical liberals and libertarians appear divided on a number of issues, these divisions can be as much within the groups as between. For example, there are no majority views on climate change. While the pure ‘denialist’ view is 10% or less in both groups, those who believe it is happening are divided between natural and human causes (with slightly more supporting the latter general consensus view). Similarly, none of the three options for responding (nothing, carbon trading, carbon tax) received majority support from either group.

ACCC review of company mergers causes debate in classical liberal and libertarian circles, and there were supporters of both the for and against the ACCC view in both groups. Though larger numbers in both groups favoured ACCC intervention where a merger would substantially lessen competition, it was a 39-percentage point margin for classical liberals but only a 2-percentage point margin for libertarians.

Though generally libertarians are radical classical liberals, on quite a few issues the responses of the two groups were near identical. They hold the same unfavourable views on benefits for families capable of self-reliance, the same favourable views on privatisation of government assets, nearly the same levels of support for the idea that government should fund but not deliver school education and health services, the same attitudes to abortion (legal in the first 24 weeks was the most popular option), both in almost equal proportions think that penalty rates should be decided by negotiation rather than by government, and their views on the effects of phasing out tariffs are the same.

Tthe survey provides no evidence of the religious influence sometimes claimed by critics on the left. 62% of classical liberals and 72% of libertarians say that they are either agnostics or atheists. Their pro-abortion views and overwhelming support for either improved legal recognition of gay relationships or marriage being a matter of private contract are consistent with this strong secular stance.

In my methodology post, I noted the low proportion of female respondents. I checked to see whether male and female responses differed. On most questions, males and females took the same side of the debate, but on a number of questions, female classical liberal respondents preferred different options to male respondents. These were unfair dismissal laws (females preferring application to larger companies rather than abolition), marijuana use (females preferring legalisation for personal use only), minimum wage laws (females preferring them, while recognising effects on employment) and compulsory voting (females in favour, males against). It’s hard to know whether these women were representative of classical liberal women more generally, but overall there is little reason to believe that more women would have substantially altered the results.

In general, the survey is consistent with the impressions I had of the differences between the two groups, though it did not ask questions on deeper philosophical points and could not measure intellectual style. Classical liberals and libertarians are on the same side of the political debates covered in this survey, with libertarians tending to be more radical. However, there are substantial differences of opinion within both groups, including sometimes large minorities holding views apparently inconsistent with their broader ideological commitments.

72 thoughts on “Are classical liberals and libertarians the same?

  1. When describing my political position to Americans I say “classical liberal, roughly what Americans call ‘libertarian’ “. I am uncomfortable with the libertarian label because the label seems to me to imply too narrow and too absolutist a view of politics and policy. The American use of ‘liberal’ meaning ‘politically cross-dressing social democrat’ creating the need to go into further and better particulars. (See my response to Jonah Goldberg’s responses to my review of his Liberal Fascism.) The responses you report broadly fit in with why I do not use the label ‘libertarian’.


  2. Michael – I’m uneasy with the term “libertarian” in America for the same reasons as you, but I find I can describe my position quite adequately there as just “free market liberal”. (Works in Europe, too.)


  3. The differences between classical liberal males and classical liberal females are interesting. Would love to hear your thoughts on causation Andrew.

    I’d also like to see whether party identification has an effect on policy independent of liberal/libertarian identification. I suspect those who don’t identify with the Liberal Party would be more radical on abortion and a bill of rights independent of ideological labels, but would be interested to see if that’s the case.


  4. Your survey had zero questions on foreign policy, which means that it doesn’t provide any data on a most important question: are there in fact any libertarians or liberals in Australia at all?

    All the leading thinkers of the freedom philosophy (none of whom have originated in Australia) agree that it is impossible to call yourself a liberal or libertarian unless you believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy and oppose draconian wartime measures at home. This single issue is a “litmus test”, so to speak. Prominent thinkers such Thomas Jefferson, Richard Cobden, Murray Rothbard (to name but a few) had strongly anti-war views. Yet how many so-called Australian liberals or libertarians would fit the bill in this regard? How many would “fit in” at the leading conferences among scholars in America or Britain, most of whom understand that the key tenet of liberalism is anti-war foreign policy views? I would suggest perhaps 10-20, at the most.

    By American standards, it’s clear that very few people in Australia are in actual fact philosophically “liberal” or “libertarian”. In Australia, these two terms are (wrongly) equated with “free-market” economics.

    It is my hypothesis that there is in fact no “libertarian” or “liberal” movement in Australia whatsoever. What we have instead is a “free-market” economists’ movement. Free-market economics is certainly welcome, however it’s a far cry from the strong and explicitly libertarian movement in America. It would have been nice to have had some data to back up my hypothesis, but unfortunately, your survey doesn’t probe the question.


  5. Most of the people who took the survey would be self-aware enough to classify their own political ideology, they don’t need you to tell them they are wrong because their understanding of libertarianism and liberalism is different from yours in regards to one issue.

    That might have been an interesting area of research Andrew, whether single-issue nutters are more common among liberals or libertarians.


  6. Looking at the chart on political party support here are a few observations.

    1. From the perspective of the National Party it is a really good thing that not all Australians share the libertarian / classical liberal worldview. The Greens don’t get a whole lot of support from this crowd but the Nationals get nothing.

    2. The Liberal Democrats (LDP) have a marketing problem when it comes to Classical Liberals. In spite of a policy offering that avoides the relative radicalism of most libertarians, precisely because it wants the support of classical liberals, it does not appeal much to this latter group. It could be that there are LDP policies positions that classical liberals really hate (although none revealed by this survey) or it could be that Classical Liberals are more tribally loyal to traditional parties. Or perhaps they have just never heard of the LDP.


  7. Sukrit – I agree fully that I should have had a foreign policy question. On the other hand, while I agree that wars cause domestic government to expand, I don’t agree with the rest of your comment. The practical result of your position in the 20th century would have been a somewhat smaller US state, but long-term totalitarian governments in Western Europe (and possibly eventually the UK), Japan, all of Korea, and who knows where else as either or both of Nazi Germany and Communist USSR had no major balancing force in global politics. You’ve heard all these arguments before, but I am prepared to wear a larger state to avoid these catastrophic results for human freedom.

    Intellectual and political history is also littered with claims by various factions in intra-ideological wars that they have the one and only ‘true’ version of their philosophy. I am also sceptical of this. In reality, all the major ideologies – even supposedly universal ideologies like liberalism or socialism – are traditions that vary over time, between countries, and within themselves at any given time and place. So long as someone generally supports the key institutions of classical liberalism in contemporary debates I am prepared to call them a classical liberal, even if (as this survey reveals) they do not adopt every single position logically deduced from classical liberalism’s general beliefs.


  8. Andrew – two areas of questioning that you have flagged that might have been useful (and will hopefully be in any future survey) are:-

    1. Firearms control.
    2. Foreign Policy.

    I’d suggest that support for a gold standard also defines (and divides) a lot of libertarians. I think it ought to be in any future survey.


  9. It could be that there are LDP policies positions that classical liberals really hate (although none revealed by this survey) or it could be that Classical Liberals are more tribally loyal to traditional parties. Or perhaps they have just never heard of the LDP.

    Terje – Classical liberals want to appear moderate, balanced, articulate and sophisticated. That’s why they call themselves classical liberals instead of ‘moderate libertarian’ or ‘Liberal Party libertarian’. You can rest assured that if the LDP ever achieves enough success to appear on TV in a positive, progressive light, these people will link themselves to it in droves.

    Sukrit – if the real test between a classical liberal and libertarian is their level of fanaticism and angriness then you are truly a libertarian!


  10. There is no religious bent because you were not measuring Conservatives but liberals and liberals of all stripes I might add.

    The line between classical liberalism and libertarianism is so fine, it doesn’t bare distinction until a libertarianism subset branches off into anarchism or something else extreme.

    I’ve stood by this for some time now, there are no liberals in the Liberal party, none that can affect any change whatsoever anyway. Most have either joined the LDP or recognised that the ALP pass more liberal laws than the LPA. The Liberal party is Conservative and so are those that proclaim to be liberals that stick with the party.


  11. or recognised that the ALP pass more liberal laws than the LPA.

    No concerns then about Internet filtering then?


  12. Yet how many so-called Australian liberals or libertarians would fit the bill in this regard?

    As far as I know, no Australian liberal or libertarian is a slave-owner, friend of the French emperor, or Pat Buchanan supporter.


  13. Andrew – that’s a very rosy picture of the link between Big Government and war. A “somewhat smaller” state? That is not the conclusion of most people who have written entire books on the subject (in particular, I recommend Bruce Porter, Robert Higgs and Martin van Creveld). Both World Wars were ambiguous at best from the perspective of freedom. The net outcome of WWII was less freedom globally, as the libertarian John V. Denson has brilliantly shown. This is a complex historical subject involving inter-linked events in many different countries and your arguments do not differentiate between the “seen” and “unseen” effects of war.

    Every major classical liberal thinker has recognized that war is the “key” to unlocking Big Government, and especially Mises, Hayek and Rothbard. I can also dig up several quotes by Milton and David Friedman to the same effect. So clearly, what I am saying is not anything particularly new or dogmatic. The people who disagree seem to think that they themselves are experts on what libertarianism is and is not, and fail to rationalize their views by citing some prominent libertarians that disagree with me. The foreign policy work put out by the three major libertarian think tanks in the US – Cato, Mises and Independent – supports my argument, as I well know, since I have spent the past 6 months reading this work very closely.


  14. So to sum up, there should have been a foreign policy question. Almost every thinker who has spent time thinking deeply about war and peace in the top libertarian publications has come to the same conclusion. This suggests that there is a well established position, so anyone who deviates significantly from the well established position is ipso facto probably not libertarian/liberal. War and peace isn’t like immigration, intellectual property, or abortion, where there are many prominent libertarians offering arguments on both sides. The debate is lopsided in favour of the anti-war position, starting as far back as Thomas Jefferson and continuing to the present day. That suggests there is a “dogmatic” position on the issue, and I would not trust any Australian who has not written extensively on the topic to tell me otherwise.


  15. Sukrit, perhaps you don’t understand my question. Consider the following quote.

    IN THE SUMMER OF 1940, with Hitler’s troops moving through
    France to encircle Switzerland, Ludwig von Mises sat beside his
    wife Margit on a bus filled with Jews fleeing Europe. To avoid capture, the bus driver took back roads through the French countryside, stopping to ask locals if the Germans had been spotted ahead—reversing and finding alternative routes if they had been.
    Mises was two months shy of his fifty-ninth birthday. He was
    on the invaders’ list of wanted men. Two years earlier, they had ransacked his Vienna apartment, confiscating his records, and freezing his assets. Mises then hoped to be safe in Geneva. Now nowhere in Europe seemed safe. Not only was he a prominent intellectual of Jewish descent; he was widely known to be an archenemy of National Socialism and of every other form of socialism. Some called him “the last knight of liberalism.”

    Options include surrendering or fighting. If we were to adopt your views, there would be no Mises (or even Rothbard) to read today. Perhaps you could discuss your understanding more fully?


  16. Sukrit – Wars do increase government, and spectacularly so when the militarily successful invading state is a totalitarian one. Staid, social democratic ‘old Europe’ is a libertarian paradise compared to what it was in the early 1940s, and would continue to have been without US military action, aided by the other Anglo democracies.

    I agree that going to war is an enormously difficult decision that is certain to have negative consequences even if military victory is achieved. But I also think that the universalist element of liberalism and libertarianism means that the interests of non-members of our own state cannot morally be reduced to zero, which is what happens under the isolationist view. Indeed, I could not subscribe to an ideology that did this.

    Isolationalism is a particular strand of American thinking, but I did not think that it is more than an element of the global classical liberal/libertarian tradition.


  17. Liberalism has always wavered between a proprietarian (rights-based) and utilitarian (interest-based) social philosophy. The foundational liberals were divided between philosophers like Locke who favoured rights and economists like Bentham who thought rights were nonsense.

    THere has always been a struggle in liberalism to determine which form should be prevalent. Let me have a crack at squaring the ideological circle.

    Liberalism is the foundational philosophy of modernity. That is, liberalism is a philosophy of the legality of liberty. And legality is measured in stocks of rights to flows of value.

    It is sold as a philosophy of acceptable individual autonomy. This is its proprietarian principle.

    But it works as a philosophy of accountable institutional authority. This is its utilitarian practice.

    As a public philosophy it is impossible to ignore accountability, both within and without the firm. That means measuring the flow of values. And that means utilitarianism.

    The biggest problem with the rights-based view is that it is counter-evolutionary. The world changes always, everywhere, and rights must change with it. It does not pay to get too attached to a legal claim. What happens if “the deals off”?

    The problem with rights is that they are rather self-centred and short-term. They dont always take into account the public interest which is long-run and big-picture.

    Also, in the post-modern context, negative rights have turned into positive entitlements. I dont have a problem with entitlements, but I dont think they have the absolute status of rights.


  18. What about the social democrats? It’s a pity about the sheilahs. For some reason, smart chicks just don’t seem to be attracted to blogging, hence the over representation of the bovine 1970s boilersuit sapphists.


  19. To most people “liberatarian” means having cocaine snorted off your dick while you drive at 200 miles per hour, seat belt free, high on legal ecstasy you paid from your tax-free income. Issues such as school vouchers really do not come into it.


  20. Liberals respect traditional authority.
    Libertarians adore fashionable autonomies.

    The biggest difference bw liberal and libertarians is probably on drug legalisation.

    Libertarians just love the idea of letting every one get stoned if they want to and can afford to.

    Liberals remember that their philosophy depends on the assumption that everyone will act in a fair and reasonable manner, like traditional Englishman.

    We have an example of how drug liberalisation works: California.

    Anyone been to Venice Beach lately? All the old stoners shuffling about, talking to themselves or snatching at unidentifiable flying objects doing low-flying bombing runs past their noses.

    Of if that doesnt grab you, try the Pakistan-Afghan border. Lots of people sampling free drugs their. Hows that working out?


  21. Jack,
    You can not legislate common-sense or self control. Sooner or later, hopefully the sooner, a healthy dose of social Darwinism will come into play and sort out the problem for the responsible among us.


  22. I didn’t notice any of the academic or blogging neo-liberals here in Australia or elsewhere protesting about the label before most of the rest of the world finally woke up it its greedy idiocy. Funny about that, eh, wot?


  23. Jack,

    I think drug legalisation should be accompanied by a) licensing of supply and b) licensing of users.

    a) is achieved by safe production and strict dosage limits according to b). In the case of addictive drugs, also immediate consumption (which may make it necessary to have dispensaries close to/within clubs and festivals).

    b) is achieved by education of users (on the dangers of drugs), who are then granted a dosage (similar to methadone). The dosage can be increased upon subsequent – more graphic, personal – education.

    This will take much of the social rebellion and personal identity forming out of drugs, making it a purely sensory experience, almost* removing the chance that anyone will become a ‘shuffling hippy’ from over-exposure.

    Ironic perhaps that this solution to drug abuse is so reliant upon government intervention given libertarians love of the idea.

    *some people with tendencies toward psychosis can be permanently affected by only a very few dosages, but this is an acceptable percentage I would say.


  24. # 29 invig April 13th, 2009 19:50

    This will take much of the social rebellion and personal identity forming out of drugs, making it a purely sensory experience, almost* removing the chance that anyone will become a ’shuffling hippy’ from over-exposure.

    Ironic perhaps that this solution to drug abuse is so reliant upon government intervention given libertarians love of the idea.

    THis is an out-dated view of the drug problem. About 20 years out of date.

    The drug problem is a cultural problem, not just a medical or criminal one, although it is that as well. And libertarianism would make it as bad as it could possibly be.

    Cultural problems cause culture wars. And these are not just about moral values. They are about real estate values, the holiest of holies. They are about social-status.

    Libertarians, or post-modern liberals as I prefer to call them, want sub-culturalism to provide a bit of excitement in their hum-drum lives. And they also want multiculturalism to that they can have some diversity to ostentatiously celebrate.

    Drug subcultures. although fashion-driven, are a pain in the fisc with all the social costs of correction and medication. That bad enough. Multicultures that do not properly integrate will tend to form lower social strata. Thats worse.

    Combine drug subcultures with gang multicultures and what do you get: gangsta ghettos.

    The US has been there and done that 40 years ago. That explosive cultural mix was enough to transform liberal JFK America into corporal RMN America in the space of ten years. From Gregory Peck to Clint Eastwood.

    You can see where this is heading. The drug cultural problem is going to do wonders for property values in a neighbourhood near you. “There goes the neighbourhood”, as the saying went.

    I have been banging on with this theory for more than a decade. Its already happened to urban indigenes. I see that ethnic motorcycle gangs (mutliculturalism!) have now taken over Sydney’s amphetamine trade (subculturalism).

    This sort of thing is music to the ears of Larvatus Prodeo folk who can then blame the whole mess on Nixon or Howard or some bogeyman. Or “lack of funding” or “cultural insensitivity” by the bogans. That is the mantra of “libertarians”.

    Do you think Australians, with their worship of real estate, will wear this if it is amplified under post-modern liberal – libertarian guise?

    Libertarianism, whether cultural or financial, destroys the moral foundation of liberalism.


  25. So you can bring up the aging hippies as a relevant argument but then when I use it, it is 20 years out of date?

    My friend, your arguments are unclear, full of jargon, accusatory. I therefore suspect you are obfuscating.

    Please try again: this time using clear logical statements of cause and effect.


  26. Nice work Jack! Where have you been hiding out lately?
    The left critique of “neoliberalism” is a crock, typical examples are David McKnight (Beyond Left and Right) and Stephen Loosley in the Weekend Australian Review yesterday. Their arguments have been covered for yonks as Andrew pointed out but they don’t take any notice. So much for the benefits of keeping kids in school for 12 years and then sending them on for higher education. Maybe the Education Revolution and 100x faster Net connections will help.


  27. Actually, you probably are making sense, and I was too distracted to see it.

    I’ll come back and have another shot at a later date – although it may be a few days…my beautiful girlie arrives tomorrow for a visit.

    A drug free one mind you lol.


  28. Since most of these scores can be plugged into a stats package of some sort –

    There are patterns discernible across these questions, but to what extent are these coherent world views and to what extent random prejudices in each category?

    Could some measure be placed as to how respondents ‘lined up’. Did the same group provide the free responses and another cohesive group the statist responses?

    A very good piece of work and it would seem worthy of replication and refinement – as the correspondence is very lively.


  29. Jack, I think you’re suffering drug paranoia (at least for marijuana where proper studies have been done). Most evidence shows that there are almost no cognitive effects once you are off it (excluding indirect ones from related risks caused by cancer, strokes and the the like, which are never measured — I image this is where most of the real cost is). In fact, most initial studies looking at previous moderate users (who had averaged a few thousand joints) never found any significant effects, and even ones looking at previous chronic users have only reported tiny effects.
    On this note,
    1) If you’re worried about the direct effect of drugs, the one with the most impact on society is of alcohol, but that’s already legal.
    2) If you’re worried about indirect effects (like gangs), then surely decriminilization will reduce that, since the gangs will have to think of something else to make money from.
    3) Blaming drug abuse on multiculturalism is a really strange thing to do — white Australians are some of the biggest users in the world. Even if it happens to be “ethnic” gangs selling the white kids their drugs (which seems unlikely — most drugs sales are no doubt from whites to whites), then surely most of the blame lies with white kids creating the demand (or are white kids too stupid to take any responsibility for themselves?).
    4) Even blaming crime, gangs, etc. on multiculturalism is a strange thing to do. White Australians are some of the biggest crime producers in the OECD (feel free to look it up). The average immigrant creates less crime than the average Australia. Clearly then, multiculturalism must lead to less and not more overall crime in Australia.


  30. Marijuana might be a soft drug and not harmful, or it might not. Most studies show that long term use causes psychosis and respiratory ailments including cancer. Not good.

    Even if marijuana is relatively harmless, do we need another generation of teenagers turned into pointlessly-giggling munchie-craving lard-assed couch potatoes?


  31. Regarding the drug sub-culture and ethnic multicultures, I have one word for you: Mafia.

    Crime is a business where contract enforcement is costly. You cant go to the police when someone rips off your stash. Thats why criminals have “enforcers” with whom they take out “contracts”.

    But its much easier to do business with members of the family. Afterall, if they are married to your sister then even if the deal goes sour the money stays in the family.

    So the connection between criminal drug production and ethnic gangs is a no brainer.

    On the criminal drug consumption side of the equation you get the problem of chronicly under-achieving minorities turning to drugs as a solace. Sort of opium of the under-class.

    Does this not accord with your observation?

    If not, you should get out more.

    (I lived in NYC during the Crack Wars. Its where I lost my liberal illusions.)


  32. #36 conrad April 14th, 2009 07:24

    The average immigrant creates less crime than the average Australia. Clearly then, multiculturalism must lead to less and not more overall crime in Australia.

    Immigrants, including NESBs, are by and large a fairly law-abiding group, a fact I have never denied. This trend is largely due to AUS’s strict controls on immigration going back over the past century. It has nothing much to do with “multiculturalism”.

    The average immigrant is typically selected for points accumulated on a skills and resources scoring list. A list which has little or no cultural “valency” one way or another. Just modern industrial pragmatism.

    When NESB immigrants are selected for “cultural” reasons (family re-union or refugee) then their social pathology tends to rise dramatically. No names, no pack drill.

    Although, contrary to conrads empirical claim, there have been some disturbing socio-pathological trends amongst some ethnic sub-classes. (As the immigration system gets rorted when the pressure to get more bums onto seats gets higher.) This AIC study of ethnic crime in VIC drew the following conclusion:

    Arrest/offenders processed statistics from Victoria for the five year period 1993-94 to 1997-98 display the following patterns:

    alleged offenders born in the Russian Federation, Romania, Vietnam, Former Yugoslavia, New Zealand, Turkey, and Lebanon were processed at a higher rate than the Australian-born in each of the five years. The 1997-98 statistics produce high alleged offender rates for those born in Somalia, Uruguay, and Thailand.

    Of course, focusing on immigrants ignores the critical question of “where is all this heading”? That is why people like me get cranky about the NESB immigrants subject. Its not the hard-working, law-abiding parents – its their kids running wild.

    And that is where the toxic currents within multiculturalism and subculturalism make confluence: in the first generation.

    Here is where libertarianism comes into “play”. (Play being the operative word for such a self-indulgent philosophy.)

    Libertarians believe in open borders and state indifference to alien cultural values. That is multiculturalism alright.

    Libertarians also believe in life-style choice and drug liberalisation. That is subculturalism alright.

    Put libertarian multiculturalism into the same boat as libertarian subculturalism and ten years later you go from JFK and Gregory Peck to RMN and Clint Eastwood.

    Plus a mammoth increase in police surveillance and the penal correction state. Is that the way to get a free society?

    Libertarianism has done more damage to the brand name of liberalism than any number of Marxists or radical fire-brands. Most decent people associate “libertarianism” with “doing your own thing” not caring about anybody else, just out for yourself.

    I mean, cultural libertarianism leads to train-wreck lives of self-indulgence, like Courtney Love. And financial libertarianism leads to outbreaks of scam-of-the-century eg Bernie Madoff.

    And libertarians do very little to disavow that image. Anyone remember the name of Ayn Rand’s core philosophical book?

    Meanwhile there are the people who decide political leadership and public policy. I mean the great bulk of middle-classes out there in mortgage belt land, mostly (not totally) Cauc-Asian in race, “Christian” in religion and Constitutional in regent. They are the people who generally staff and manage the country. Play by the rules.

    Although they are happy to take their hand-outs they still prefer to run their own lives independently. Strong urge to own their own home, educate kids in private schools, not be a burden to public health.

    Do you think that they will buy into legalising dope when it leads to the ghettoisation of influxing ethnic groups? If you do then you have learned nothing about the history of the past two generations.

    Multiply all that by a factor of ten when you take into account the amount of resources now ploughed into private home ownership and private education. All of which is risked when drug usage gets out of hand which it always tends to do.

    The boring middle classes are the cultural foundation of freedom. That is why such people have a fairly surprisingly strong political sympathy with such boring control-freaks as Howard and Rudd. Because freedom, lived as self-government, is based on aboring control-freakish populace with like-minded role models in leadership.


  33. “Most studies show that long term use causes psychosis and respiratory ailments including cancer.”
    No they don’t. The evidence for the first is mixed. In addition, even if the first happens to be true, it’s such a tiny effect compared to the likely size of the effect of the second it’s essentially irrelevant. Given the second is the same problem as with cigarettes, it doesn’t make sense to ban one and not the other.
    “Even if marijuana is relatively harmless, do we need another generation of teenagers turned into pointlessly-giggling munchie-craving lard-assed couch potatoes”
    Should we ban most television too?
    “On the criminal drug consumption side of the equation you get the problem of chronicly under-achieving minorities turning to drugs as a solace. Sort of opium of the under-class. Does this not accord with your observation?”
    Yes, that does accord with my observations (with alcohol being the number 1 drug) — I just don’t see how banning what amounts to widely available drugs solves that problem at all (perhaps it would work in Singapore, where you really can ban drugs). As far as I’m concerned, if usage goes up but all the related enforcement problem goes down, that’s not a bad trade off.
    “So the connection between criminal drug production and ethnic gangs is a no brainer”
    You keep on saying ethnic. But it also seems to me a no-brainer that most drug consumption and most drug sales are done by white kids. What’s ethnic about that? No doubt for some drugs importation is done initially by ethnic gangs, but it seems to me that even if this is the case, you are ascribing the problem entirely to the seller and not the user, even though you admit it’s a cultural problem (white kids liking drugs too much). That makes no sense to me. In any case, legalization would reduce the gang crime problem (of whatever ethnic persuasion), not increase it, since legalization would stop money being made from it.
    Anyway, I think we’re getting way off topic here, suffice to say there is a big difference between the conservative and liberal positions on this!


  34. Sinclair – We’ve had the discussion before. I’m not interested in repeating myself, and neither are you I’m sure. Last time around, I set you some homework and told you to go forth and read. It doesn’t appear as if you’ve done that, so we’re stuck with the same inane questions about “fighting” or “surrendering”. Instead of wasting further time, can you point me to a book length defense of the libertarian case for warmongering? I want to see where you’re getting your views from. Remember it has to be written by a libertarian, because that’s the only way to find the correct ideological position. You can’t cite a conservative on what libertarians do and do not believe, you have to go straight to the libertarian source.


  35. Andrew – First, your usage of the term “isolationism” indicates you don’t really understand what libertarianism is about. Since 1776, American libertarianism has been about non-interventionism, not isolationism. Second, “universalism” as a justification for interventionism is something you appear to have made up on the spot. Is there a book-length defense of the pro-war libertarian case you can point me towards? Remember, it has to be written by a self-identified libertarian/liberal.


  36. Sukrit – this book, I think, might meet your criteria. I draw your attention to the second last line on page 832.

    To defeat the aggressors is not enough to ake peace durable.

    The emphasis is on “to defeat the aggressors”. Notice that in von Mises’ own life. He tried to flee the aggressors by first moving to Switzerland, he then had to flee to the US. It was only in the US, in the safety of the great evil empire etc. etc., that he was safe. Because they fought back and won. The next line is

    The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war.

    On that point we all agree. But you are wrong if you think that unilateral pacifism is the way to to achieve that end.

    So we have the words and deeds of von Mises stacked up against you.


  37. #40 conrad April 14th, 2009 09:19

    You keep on saying ethnic. But it also seems to me a no-brainer that most drug consumption and most drug sales are done by white kids. What’s ethnic about that?

    No doubt for some drugs importation is done initially by ethnic gangs, but it seems to me that even if this is the case, you are ascribing the problem entirely to the seller and not the user, even though you admit it’s a cultural problem (white kids liking drugs too much). That makes no sense to me.

    You are looking at the problem in a narrow way, as a time slice rather than time series. Small focus rather than big picture.

    Ethnicity can become a problem because it is a variable with generational potential. It also becomes a hot button issue when social pathologies lead to social stratification.

    If you put (largely minority) ethnic multicultures together with (largely majority) sociopathic subcultures you get ethnic drug gangs and ethnic drug ghettos. That is, ethnic drug gangs distributing drugs to white kids, getting high on their own supply and turning their neighbourhoods into ghettos.

    This problem can become endemic with some ethnic groups who struggle to follow the school-college-career path. Educational under-achievement combines with degradational drug abuse leading to under-class stratification, ethnic enclaves and ghettos. Then follows race-riots, possibly terrorism and extreme cases, seperatism.

    Its true that most drug consumption is done by “white kids”. I lived in Stkilda and Kings Cross for nearly 20 years. (when not in SF or NYC.) I know of what I speak.

    Its not good when “white kids” turn to drugs. It wastes their expensive education. But Majority sub-cultures tend to be fashion-driven and die out every five-ten years. Eventually you grow up and grow out of these things. Get older, fatter and more bourgeois.

    But minority multicultures are much more intractable because they are based on kinship and family lineage. To conserve ethnic identity one must be endogamous and tradition-bound.

    Libertarians endorse minority multicultualism which generates ethnic gangstaism.

    Libertarians are prepared to allow all sorts of majority subculturalism which engenders drug addiction.

    So their philosophy provides ideological cover for a potential sociological disaster.

    You can, if you want, maintain that “it cant happen here”. Like Cabramatta and Lakemba and Footscray and Springvale are just figments of our imagination.

    It took us about 20 years to go from Grassby-Keating to Hanson-Howard. About twice as long as the US because AUS was always stricter than the US. Our state governments rapidly took up the “law and order” cry from shock jocks and tabloids.

    The US has already been there and done that. They got the situation that almost destroyed civic life in the US bw 1965-95. The Second American Civil War killed almost 300,000 people over and above the secular trend in homicides.

    This was not a good result for colored people, never mind aging white hippies shuffling along Venice Beach promenade.

    In short, you get the Culture War. Way to go for a brighter, happier future.


  38. Sinclair, maybe it’s because you’re an economist not a historian, but when Mises was talking about defeating “aggressors” he actually meant defeating aggressors. Yet in many conflicts of the 20th century, the US was the major aggressor. They even provoked the attack on Pearl Harbour during WWII (read John V. Denson’s book)! So how is that inconsistent with what I’m saying?

    In any case, that’s not a book-length defense of pro-war libertarianism, it’s merely a chapter in one of Mises’ books. Because Mises also makes a variety of statements favourable to my argument here. It’s true Mises does make some statements that most American libertarians today would shy away from, however if you read his Omnipotent Government, you will find that he understands precisely the link between warfare and Big Government at home.

    So another reference please. I can provide you dozens of book-length defenses of anti-war libertarianism, so it’s only reasonable you give me at least one pro-war reference.


  39. Who said this?

    In a world full of unswerving aggressors and enslavers, integral unconditional pacifism is tantamount to unconditional surrender to the most ruthless oppressors. He who wants to remain free, must fight unto death those who are intent upon depriving him of his freedom. As isolated attempts on the part of each individual to resist are doomed to failure, the only workable way is to organize resistance by the government. The essential task of government is defense of the social system not only against domestic gangsters but also against external foes. He who in our age opposes armaments and conscription is, perhaps unbeknown to himself, an abettor of those aiming at the enslavement of



  40. Sukrit – you’re grasping at straws. You are advocating a position at variance with von Mises; yet claiming to be the true libertarian? Then you say ‘oh, no that is a chapter not a book.’ Then you say you’re an economist not an historian? Hmm, if you want to debate with the adult you’re going to have to move beyond the undergraduate offerings.

    We all know the arguments against war and we all agree with them. What we don’t agree with is your pacifism being consistent with libertarianism.


  41. So basically, classical liberals are just “moderate libertarians”.

    I note that you didn’t allow people to call themselves both. That is like giving people an option for “male” or being a “man” and then assuming the difference matters.

    I also note your suggestion about deontology v utilitarian reasons for belief is quite unlikely. John Locke took a “rights-based” approach, and presumably you’d call him a “liberal”. Friedman and Hayek both took utilitarian approaches and yet admitted to being “libertarian”. The distinction is purely cosmetic.

    In the Australian context, if you insist that libertarians are rights-based then you lose quite a few prominent australian libertarians. The two biggest libertarian blogs (catallaxy & ALS) would not be “libertarian” under that definition.

    I would suggest a better use of words in this context is to understand “libertarian” as being an umbrella term that includes all “small-government people”, which is split between “moderates”, “minarchists” and “anarchists”. The fact that you aren’t an anarchist does NOT mean that you are not a libertarian.


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