Another Misuse of the Word “Libertarian”

According to WaPo, Paul Weyrich says that newly elected House majority leader John Boehner is a libertarian:

“He is a libertarian, much more so than anybody we’ve ever had in the leadership,” said Weyrich, who favors government activism in some instances, especially on social issues.

Logan Ferree‘s numbers indicate that Weyrich is full of shit. With a libertarian economic index of less than 50% and a social index of 6.67%, Boehner could hardly be qualified as freedom-friendly.

14 Comments
  1. A Libertarian, or freeman, is a class of citizan who by talkinga pledge to respect other’s rights, is immune from the operations of coercive government, governing himself as he pleases, generally in small communities. The status fell into disuse in the English speaking world with the spread of socialism, the concept of universal positive (arbitrary and mandatory) lgislation, and enactments such as the Corporation Acts in Britain. It was resuscitated by S. Pearl Andrews in the US in the 1800’s, who developed the pledge now used by the LP, and in continuous use by groups such as the LIO. It is basically a pledge to the core principle of common and natural law, to return each his property.

    This fellow thinks he’s a Libertarian because he’s unhappy with some tax, perhaps. While a hopeful sign, it no more makes you a Libertarian than an affection for Elvis Presley makes you an American.

  2. A libertarian is anyone who seeks to remove power and authority from the state and return it to the individual. The DEGREE of which this is is totally immaterial – if they seek less state power and more individual liberty, they are a libertarian. They dont have to sign a pledge, and they dont have to believe in a social cooperative world.

    They simply have to be libertarian in the broader sense. There’s no “real” or “true” libertarianism, just libertarians of varying degrees and persuasions. To the degree you insist that only pledge takers are real libertarians, you damage the LP’s chances at ever forming the sort of big coalition needed to make the LP a real player in politics.

    Don’t insist your view is the one true libertarian way. It makes the rest of us in the movement feel like idiots and stooges. Be happy with your definition for yourself and those that believe like you, and stop using it as a control mechanism. The LP does not exist to make more libertarians or pledge signers.

  3. I am grateful for and support the efforts of all who are working for a free society. So, thanks MG and TW. Now, please put down your verbal weapons and take a deep breath. Both of you have a point and both of you are ON THE SAME DANG SIDE.

    Giving MG the benefit of the doubt, I suspect that he’d agree that we *ibertarians (* = both large and small L) do have an interest in maintaining some precision of language. Using the word “libertarian” do describe one who for non-libertarian reasons takes a libertarian position is…what? That’s a real, i.e. non-rhetorical, question.

    TW, if Chuck Schumer, who if he has a libertarian molecule anywhere in his entire body means only that he was somewhere in the same county as one, says something hazily libertarian, what do we call him?

    MG, if Ron Paul occasionally votes in a way that he has concluded is the best freedom-achieving tactic even if not purely libertarian, what do we call him?

  4. I think most would agree that Chuck Schumer isnt libertarian no matter what he says.

    The issue is simply this: there is no “gold standard” of libertarianism, and every time I hear someone says that there is, it drives me batty. His post rather concretly says that only PLEDGE TAKERS are libertarians. I cant accept that.

    I am quite aware that I sound like a broken record skipping on the groove, but I’m not demanding that you have to believe what I do to be a libertarian. In MG’s eyes, I’m a sharecropper libertarian. He’ll let me be a part of the going on, but the offical party line is that only pledge takers are real libertarians. I reject that idea. Libertarians are quite capable of making a judgement about others as to if they are a asset or a liability to the LP.

    I’m glad MG is out there on my side – but I wont stay a second class citizen in my own party. I’m just as much of a libertarian as he is.

  5. This is what I sent to the author, Jonathan Weisman:

    John Boehner is not a libertarian. Speaking as a libertarian myself, and knowing Rep. Boehner’s stance on several issues, I can unequivically say that he is not a libertarian. I really hope you correct your error, as calling him a libertarian either shows a huge lack of understanding when it comes to libertarianism, or it shows a lack of knowledge of Boehner’s stance on the issues.

    The guy might like tax-cuts, but that doesn’t make him a libertarian. He is not economically libertarian and without a shred of doubt he is not socially libertarian. He isn’t anywhere close on the social scale, which includes issues such as war and defense spending.

  6. I think most would agree that Chuck Schumer isnt libertarian no matter what he says.

    I’d be willing to bet he’s more close to being a libertarian than Rep. Boehner.

    You seem to be dancing around the main topic, Tim. It appears you think classifying Boehner as a libertarian is acceptable…Perhaps you could clarify your view for us.

  7. Did you actually read the votes that Mr. Ferree used to arrive at his numbers? (Not that he made it easy to find the votes he used as the basis for his numbers.) I’d be careful about making them the final word on who is and is not pro-government or pro-freedom. For example, he counted a vote for CAFTA as unlibertarian. While I understand Ron Paul’s theory that we need to just enact free trade unilaterally, it’s utterly ridiculous to call voting for a free trade agreement “anti-free trade”. He also left out any votes, so far as I can see, on reducing taxes or making permanent the 2001 tax cuts. On medical malpractice reform, he comes down in favor of not reforming the tort system. That is, he favors allowing courts to redistribute wealth from doctors to trial lawyers – not a view I’d call “libertarian” by any stretch of the imagination.

  8. Tom: Logan left out the tax cut votes because he realizes “Starve the beast” results not in smaller government but in defecit spending. As for the torts stuff, blame the jurors.

  9. I dont think I’m dancing around anything. I dont think either of them are libertarians. Just as MG said, having libertarian tendencys does no make on a libertarian. I look for this : does the person in question have pro-liberty views on a majority of the issues of the day? If so, they belong in the LP. Do they have a anti freedom position on only ONE issue? BFD. They should STILL be in the LP.

    Either you trust in your supporters ability to know a libertarian when they meet on or you dont. A party that relies on a pledge is a collection of fools. Those with no honor will simply lie.

  10. I’ll restate my plea for some easily understood terms to distinguish the pledge-taking libertarian from the not-quite-pure-but-close-enough-to-ally-with libertarian. Perhaps it should be some adjective to apply to distinguish the purists. How does “24K libertarian” sound?

  11. Thanks Tim. I basically agree with what you said. However, I differ in one aspect. Personally, there is one issue the is a “deal breaker” for me. When it comes to the issue of war and peace, ala foreign policy, there is no compromise with me. If you support Bush’s doctrine of so-called “pre-emption” you aren’t a libertarian. If you agree with aggressive, offensive, reckless foreign policy, then you aren’t a libertarian in my eyes.

    Now I should note that I am not talking about the LP, but rather the small-l version of libertarianism. I personally am an independent voter who leans mostly libertarian. It’s just that I view the war and peace issue as taking precedent over all others.

  12. I am a pledge signer myself, however over the years I have discovered a number of interesting situations where strict adherence to the pledge would be a mistake. I know of a few principled libertarians who have diced this our for themselves and who, therefore, are not pledge signers. Many of these non-signers are even more hardcore in their political stances than I am.

    I no longer see the pledge as a useful tool for judging how libertarian someone is. It should not even be used as a litmus test for candidates or party office. I think the LP can ditch it and stand on 30+ years of activity that makes it clear that the organization is not supporting armed rebellion.

    We already have the tools that we need to protect our party. “None of the Above” is perhaps the most important and underused. Our members can certainly keep out the riffraff and kook candidates if they would just make the effort.

  13. a class of citizan who by talkinga pledge to respect other’s rights, is immune from the operations of coercive government, governing himself as he pleases

    Well if it works for the ostrich…

    I no longer see the pledge as a useful tool for judging how libertarian someone is. It should not even be used as a litmus test for candidates or party office. I think the LP can ditch it and stand on 30+ years of activity that makes it clear that the organization is not supporting armed rebellion.

    I agree for the most part… however there may be a time when we will have to defend our own homes from our own government… where do we stand then!?

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