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Friday, August 8, 2014

Libertarian moment again [updated]

A long and reasonably interesting piece in the NYT: "Has the Libertarian Moment Finally Arrived?" I tend to doubt it, and have written on the subject from the standpoint of a fairly disaffected onetime more-or-less adherent. See, in particular, "How Did Libertarians Lose Their Way?" and also "Libertarian Revolution? Not Exactly," along with David Frum's "Were the Founders Libertarians?" I have quite a few disagreements with the various strands of libertarianism today, and anticipations of a "libertarian moment" remind me of the old saying about nuclear fusion; that it's "the energy of the future--and always will be."

UPDATE: This Salon rejoinder "Ron Paul’s no Nirvana, and this isn’t the 'Libertarian Moment'" makes apt points that economic insecurity is not conducive to libertarianism and that there's no sense conflating libertarianism with disenchantment toward the two parties. Surely, some people are fed up with the Republicans because they don't like some of the more libertarian-friendly aspects of the GOP: the yearning for "hard money," for instance, or belief in making Kansas bloom with tax cuts.

UPDATE 2: Also see Chait, "No, America Is Not Turning Libertarian," which includes a dead-on rewriting of the original article's description of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

UPDATE 3: To get a sense of the repetitive and clich├ęd nature of "libertarian moment" prognostications, I recommend Googling "libertarian moment."

UPDATE 8/10/14: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then … well, I don't know that happens then. Here's Nick Gillespie on why non-libertarians shouldn't scoff:
It's because something new and different is in the air. You can see it in the bizarre, black-swan cashiering of politicians as varied as former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and the sitting Democratic governor of Hawaii (who just lost his primary). You can see it in historically low ratings not just for Congress as an institution but in the way people feel about their own representatives. Mostly, though, you can see it in the way people are living their lives beyond the puny, zero-sum scrum of politics, where people as different as Glenn Beck and Glenn Greenwald are building new forms of media and storytelling and community. Whatever else you can say about politics as bloodsport, Obama sucking even worse than Bush, etc., this much is true: People are also getting on with their lives and building new businessess, communities, and worlds in ways that are pretty damn amazing.
Me: I am highly averse to my congressman, Rep. Scott Garrett, who was an enthusiast of debt-default confrontation. There's no clear basis for assuming that if people don't like their representatives, it's because the representatives are insufficiently libertarian. In my case with Garrett, the final straw was more the opposite. I don't admire either Glenn Beck or Glenn Greenwald, but their inclusion here strikes me as suggesting that a very wide range of phenomena are being adduced as evidence for a libertarian moment or era or whatever. Also, saying there's something "in the air" makes me snort.

UPDATE 8/11/14: I'll give the final words in this post to David Frum: "Why the 'Libertarian Moment' Isn't Really Happening." An excerpt:
Despite the self-flattering claims of libertarians, the Republicans' post-2009 libertarian turn is not a response to voter demand. The areas where the voting public has moved furthest and fastest in a libertarian direction—gay rights, for example—have been the areas where Republicans have moved slowest and most reluctantly. The areas where the voting public most resists libertarian ideas—such as social benefits—are precisely the areas where the GOP has swung furthest and fastest in a libertarian direction.

Nor is it the strength and truth of libertarian ideas that explains their current vogue within the Republican Party. Libertarians have been most influential inside the GOP precisely where they have been—and continue to be—most blatantly wrong, such as when they predicted that the cheap money policies of the Federal Reserve would incite hyperinflation or that the United States teetered on the precipice of a debt crisis.
 And another:
Like all political movements, libertarianism binds together many divergent strands. It synthesizes the classical liberalism of the 1860s with the human-potential movement of the 1960s. It joins elegant economic theory to the primitive insistence that only metal can be money. It mingles nostalgia for the vanished American frontier with fantasies drawn from science fiction. It offers three cheers both for thrift, sobriety, and bourgeois self-control and three more for sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.  It invokes the highest ideals of American constitutionalism—and is itself invoked by the most radical critics of the American state and nation, from neo-Confederates to 9/11 Truthers.
Me: I could not agree more. You can't take the wheat with the chaff when the chaff has spread out of control. When I saw the continued and even stepped-up libertarian insistence on a gold standard in recent years in economic conditions that gave no indication whatsoever of the desirability of a gold standard, I knew that I was watching an ideology that had become divorced from "epistemological humility."

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