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On Libertarians Versus ‘libertarians’

10 June 2013 @ 14:19

In a [typically] thoughtful response to a rather ignorant rant by Doug Mataconis wherein the poser warns ‘libertarians’ to stop collaborating with conservatives, Smitty remarks:

What I’d propose in lieu of the poo flinging is:

  • A focus on areas of agreement on the enumerated powers that we need to drive back toward.
  • A de-emphasis on the personal hobbyhorse issues. Marriage management isn’t a federal task. I don’t need a federal law to know the score on abortion. I’d prefer libertarian indifference prevail toward those states that I could not live in for cultural reasons.
  • A sober realization that our government has become as odious as the British Parliament of the 1700s. We can hang together and prevail in time, or hold the divisive course and hang separately. The Josephus types who’ve already cut their deals will continue to be no help.

I think alliances can be formed, but not with all of them.

Let me explain, if I may…

There are two types of libertarians: Libertarians and libertarians.

-The former are ideologues who follow a system of ideas designed in the sterile laboratories of their own minds. Like all Ideologies, theirs cannot allow for any deviation from the belief system because the whole thing will collapse if any part is proven defective. And they have so much psychologically invested in their Ideology that it’s collapse would bring about a breakdown. Jacob Burckhardt called them ‘the terrible simplifiers’.

-As for the latter, small ‘l’ type, I think Russell Kirk provided a spot-on definition of them:

First, a number of the men and women who accept the label "libertarian" are not actually ideological libertarians at all, but simply conservatives under another name. These are people who perceive in the growth of the monolithic state, especially during the past half century, a grim menace to ordered liberty; and of course they are quite right. They wish to emphasize their attachment to personal and civic freedom by employing this 20th century word derived from liberty. With them I have little quarrel — except that by so denominating themselves, they seem to countenance a crowd of political fantastics who "license they mean, when they cry liberty."

So, while I agree with Smitty that we should try and make common cause with some of them — the libertarians — I think it futile to attempt to do so with the Libertarians. They’re lost in Ideology. And you can never have a productive argument with an Ideologue.

To begin with unlimited freedom is to end with unlimited despotism.

—Fyodor Dostoevsky

  1. 10 June 2013 @ 16:03 16:03

    The Libertarian/libertarian thing is why I now vacillate between calling myself a “classical liberal” and (especially lately) a Whig.

    • 10 June 2013 @ 20:16 20:16

      I think either term is better than ‘libertarian’ because that one confuses many into thinking you’re an Ideologue.

  2. 10 June 2013 @ 18:41 18:41

    “ideologues who follow a system of ideas designed in the sterile laboratories of their own minds…” Absolutely. Let’s have a discussion. I’ll start, Here’s a topic: I think that out foreign policy has proved to be an unmitigated disaster on every measurable level, and needs to be gutted, hard.

    • 11 June 2013 @ 08:08 08:08

      Yeah, if we close our eyes the bad people won’t be able to see us and will leave us alone. That seems to sum up Libertarian foreign “policy”.

  3. indyjonesouthere permalink
    10 June 2013 @ 19:15 19:15

    OK, I’ll hang out under the small l libertarian. Just don’t stick me in with the freaking rinos. Progressive collectivist republicans are as disliked as the useless democratic socialists and democratic progressives.

    • 10 June 2013 @ 20:14 20:14

      Those who are libertarian are certainly not RINO’s in my book. Why not the term ‘Classical Liberal’?

  4. Starless permalink
    11 June 2013 @ 08:14 08:14

    “Big-L” Libertarians, such as Mataconis, are perpetual adolescents who have decided that taking sides–holding convictions–is tantamount to mindless zealotry and, therefore, uncool and not to be tolerated. This gives them license to sit on the fence and sling shit at both sides and absolves them of being called on any of their hypocrisies. It’s transgressiveness-for-the-sake-of-transgressiveness which is even less helpful than that which constantly emanates from the Left.

    • thecampofthesaints permalink
      11 June 2013 @ 08:52 08:52

      I like to call it Nihilism.


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