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States' rights.--WHAT? This is from the Revolutionary War. No states' rights adherent ever mentions New England or New York

A libertarian caucus.

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Libertarians are political snakehandlers. They are detested by the host[1] and many others at Pharyngula.

Libertarians feel significantly less love for their own romantic partners, family members, friends and other people than do U.S. liberals or conservatives.[2] They care less about fairness and other people's suffering than liberals do.[3][4]

Whenever you have a comment thread full of libertarians, you can learn a lot about their priorities by asking: "As a result of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, restaurant owner Lester Maddox was forced — by the government! — to sell food to black people. Was Title II morally wrong?"

Libertarians believe poor people should have to rely on charity, even though charities can't meet people's needs during bad economies. Donors give less to charity just as more people are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts.[5] Government can keep up a more consistent level of support precisely when charities cannot.

Writings on libertarians[]

Libertarianism is business as usual[]

There have been a lot of reductions in personal freedoms in the United States. On this, libertarians, left-liberals, greens, progressives, socialists, left-anarchists, and communists agree. Some of the libertarians have a kind of zealotry that makes them very single-minded about getting their message out, and in general it is a simplistic message so it's easy to communicate. So there's a generation coming of age on the internet who don't have strong views on economics but who know that they don't feel free, and the libertarian message is the loudest one that resonates with this feeling.

The problem with libertarianism is that economic inequality is not conducive to freedom.

This much is recognized by the undeniably capitalist Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, who jointly publish the Failed States Index, which counts uneven economic development along group lines as one of the indicators of dangerous instability. On this particular measure, by the way, the United States scores more than half as bad as Somalia, Sudan or Zimbabwe.

There's more detail from the Equality Trust on how economic equality buys us all the kind of society that is conducive to freedom.

Because everything libertarians can say in their defense — "legalize drugs, end aggressive war, reduce police searches" — are policies shared by progressives, the only uniquely defining characteristic of libertarians is their extreme right-wing economics. Right-wing economic policies, though, tend to favor the consolidation of wealth, at the expense of other freedoms.

This is short-sighted. In the long run it's not even safe for the rich, because highly unequal societies eventually collapse into violence. Tim Wise gives a good description of how privilege ultimately hurts those who have it; he's talking about white privilege but you can easily see the parallels to class privilege.

Conservatives are famously short-sighted, wouldn't you agree? Isn't that one of the reasons libertarians don't want to be identified with them? Being tough on crime and tough on terror and tough on any foreign country that looks funny is short-sighted. Yet libertarian economic policies, in line with other right-wingers' economic policies, are similarly self-destructive.

Nobody is really free in the chaos and violence of a failed state. But even in a relatively stable state, people in poverty live under constant coercion and threat of violence.

And so today in the United States, even if we could immediately get rid of the PATRIOT Act and the war on drugs and the border walls and the cameras and the high-tech police cruisers and all the other obvious manifestations of the police state, and the corporate lobbying and the military-industrial complex and the military bases around the world and the constant state of undeclared war — and we should get rid of all these things immediately, but even if we did — life in the United States, for a substantial portion of the citizens, would still be more about violence and fear than freedom and opportunity.

And there is no laissez-faire policy that will address this reality.


  1. Noticed at least as early as March 2006.
  2. Iyer, Ravi; Koleva, Spassena; Graham, Jesse; Ditto, Peter H.; Haidt, Jonathan. Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology. 20 August 2010. Page 26.
  3. Ibid., page 12.
  4. For more on Iyer et al., see the online supplement at Ravi Iyer's blog, and criticism at Mike Huben's blog.
  5. Andy Koen. Charities feeling pinch of tough economy (archive). KOAA, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. 1 April 2009.

Pharyngula threads[]

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