“Libertarian” the In Vogue Adjective

On the radio, the TV and throughout the blogosphere I have noticed an increase in the use of the word “Libertarian.” But, it seems that whenever the word is used it is to associate the political philosphy with some other THING. On the radio I heard someone being referred to as a “CIVIL Libertarian.” On TV a few days ago someone pointed out that the perspective of one commentator was “Libertarian THINKING.” I read articles about Scalito’s “Libertarian STREAK” and then there is the “Libertarian WING” of conservatism.

I find it curious that media personalities toss around the “L” word to describe characteristics of conversation or to label specific aspects of their idealogy and not as a reference to the philsophy as a whole.

When and why did “Libertarian” become such a popular adjective?! Does this use of “Libertarian” hurt or help the party’s constant effort to “get the word out?”

I do find some satisfaction when the politicking pundits use my party’s label as a reference to behavior or actions that reflect the Constitution. Then again (putting on foil cap) the conspiracist in me feels that the Democrats and Republicans are slinging the “L” word around to suade anyone considering the Libertarian party that they share the same political beliefs… maybe that’s just me.

  1. Well, if people hear the word “Libertarian” they might go to google and find the Libertarian Party…That’s a good thing. If people consider themselves “Libertarians” even though only on some issues they might find “real Libertarianism”. It can only really be good.

  2. Yeah, I’ve noticed this too for the past few years. It seems a way to appropriate all the positive qualities of the libertarian philosophy without actually having to make any of the philosophical hard choices. You can be a statist and incorporate a “libertarian” position on globalization. This allows you to seem moderate but forward thinking.

    And, yeah, it’s B.S.

  3. Bill Maher’s use of “libertarian” as an adjective made me aware of the concept (it turns out I was already pretty libertarian), so without such liberal use of the word I may not self-identify as a libertarian today.

  4. Having been a registered and voting Libertarian for almost 35 years, it does seem like the term ‘libertarian’ is being used much more often than it used to. I’ve even heard one group who calls themselves ‘Socialist Libertarians’ which to me is a complete contradiction in terms. However, the simple fact that the term comes up often is good news for Libertarians. It makes more people more aware of the philosphy, or at least various aspects and angles of it. Hell, at least liberals and conservatives aren’t marginalizing the term. Ask a liberal what that feels like.

  5. The word “libertarian” is not owned by the Libertarian Party nor is it without multiple meanings. “Socialist Libertarians” refer to many movements have used the term “libertarian” from the turn of the century anarchist groups such as Emma Goldman all the way to today’s Noam Chomsky. Actually have more of a claim to the term at least in historical use of the term to describe thier movement. “Civil Libertarian” is a term that has been widely used for years to refer to mostly left wing civil rights advocates such as the ACLU. The term “libertarian” is indeed a broad term used by ultra left wing actvisits through out history to rightwing “anarcho-capitalists” and even by a few “Nazi” groups believe it or not. For the most part however the increased use of the word is refering to the LP brand of libertarianism and is good for the libertarian movement.

  6. “I’ve even heard one group who calls themselves ‘Socialist Libertarians’ which to me is a complete contradiction in terms.”

    …somewhat ironic, considering the term was coined by socialists and all over the world *outside* of the States it’s meaning is in the radical leftist sense, similar if not synonymous to anarchism (which now shares the same problem). The first people to use it were Joseph Dejaque and Pierre Proudhon, owing to the overt political repression that existed against anyone calling themself an anarchist in 19th century Europe. And if I must add, theirs was and has always been the correct definition of Libertarianism; if it’s to have any genuine meaning in the first place. What would be a complete contradiction would be free-market capitalists proclaiming themselves to be such.

  7. I would also say that I’ve heard the term libertarian a lot more in the media. I’ve heard it brought up in conservative radio. I even heard libertarian James Bovard on Air America Radio Minnesota, the “progressive” talk radio station in town.

    I think it’s good that the word “libertarian” gets brought up, but hopefully they understand what it means, and it doesn’t get tossed around and skewed.

    In general, I’d like to see more libertarians in the media, or in talk radio. One of my favorite radio shows is Free Talk Live. Check them out if you can: