Libertarians Opposed to Drugs, Sex and Rock and Roll?

Can libertarians be opposed to a hedonistic lifestyle?

My wife and I live in Alabama and are active in libertarian causes. My wife is a physician, and I’m a political consultant. We receive questions from non-libertarians like “Do you believe in free sex?” or “Why do you believe that people should smoke marijuana” quite frequently. These sorts of questions often come from physicians, elected politicians and other reasonably intelligent people as a common part of our political discourse.

Another doctor in Alabama is apparently in the same situation. Chuck George writes:

There is an American national Libertarian Party and there are state Libertarian Parties. There are many libertarians elected to lower offices but none to Congress. There have been Libertarian presidential candidates for many years.

The Party has been adversely affected in the past by fringe elements that have attached themselves and have garnered much attention for their social issues. They tend not to be supportive of general libertarian principles. These have been rather flamboyant libertines who espouse and flaunt their life style, which doesn’t attract many from the heartland.

Socially there isn’t much dispute among the convinced: libertarianism proscribes any governmental restraints on action that doesn’t infringe demonstrably on others’ well-being. This means the hedonists are supported in their right to freedom from governmentally coerced proscription of their behavior. They need not be considered conventionally correct or morally correct or socially approved for such behavior.

George is generally correct, although I find fault in a couple of lines in his article. A minor point is that there is a l-ibertarian in the House by the name of Ron Paul, but no L-ibertarians are elected to either house of Congress. The second point I’d challenge is that many of the fringe elements to which George referred are truly supportive of libertarian principles. Although many libertarians disagree with some of his views, Starchild certainly serves as a colorful example. I don’t know anyone who would dispute the libertarian credentials of Angela Keaton or Terry Liberty Parker of Austin.

Like any significant political movement, the libertarian cause is represented by various coalitions. Most of these may be considered “fringe elements” to people motivated by other causes. In Alabama, it seems that the three most vocal groups consist of people concerned primarily about government spending and taxation, strong Second Amendment advocates, and those interested in the legalization of medical marijuana. Other locations vary, and I’ve plenty of friends around the world who view peace, recreational drug legalization or sexual freedom as their primary political causes.

Simply because I am a libertarian does not mean that I am heading off to the local orgy, condoms and Extacy in hand. I could just as easily be heading for the shooting range, AA meeting (recent South Park episode notwithstanding), church function or even just to the grocery store to pick up some milk and eggs.

George stated that those with libertine values don’t “attract many from the heartland,” and he is quite correct. If he, my wife, and I seem to be having the same problem with how many define libertarianism to outsiders, perhaps the libertarian movement has not done a sufficient job at defining (or promoting) the term. It now seems that two out of two local doctors agree.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Well, the party up to last year internally rewarded what non-libertarians widely view as extremism, and there’s a large segment of the LP that actively condemns any possible foray into appealing to the very people we have to appeal to in order to get elected. Namely, independants and about 10~15% of the most libertarian voters from the majors.

    The LP has dug itself into this hole by itself and it will have to dig itself back out. “The Party of Principle” works as a loose standard to say we will never raise government size or power or ontrol over the individual, and that’s the principle it should mean, not that every single issue will be set in stone to a position that’s not possible for another 40 years from now.

    I view some LP members the same way as I view the most extreme gay pride marchers…both far more concerned with their images inside the movements they are a part of than with any possible political success.

  2. I very much like the definition given in Chuck George’s article: “A libertarian is a believer in free will or, more frequently, a supporter of absolute freedom of thought, word, and deed.”

    From this definition flows all the arguments for smaller government, less intrusive government, the right to property, acts committed between consenting adults, etc. Ultimately, libertarianism is a belief that I know what is best for me, and me being responsible for whatever consequences may come from my actions.

    The battle being waged is over free-will. The government believes we should live our lives in an overly-regulated, regimented state compelling us to act civilized in society while libertarians generally believe we all should be allowed the free choice to live our lives as we see fit while being responsible for all our actions. The question ultimately is who gets to be the nanny, the state or us?

  3. When all government …in little as in great things… shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power; it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
    — Thomas Jefferson, 1821

    Perhaps if nothing else the libertarian party is a pin prick of light in the otherwise bleak abyss that is our political system. I’m happy to be one of the guys fanning the flames… minuscule as they may be. ;-)

  4. I think the biggest problem for Libertarians is marketing our ideas to religious people who see allowing immoral behavior the same as supporting immoral behavior. I think we need to emphasize the fact that small government would allow greater freedom for everyone, religious and not.

  5. I completely agree that the man on the street needs to be educated about the difference between government force and advocacy. This is across the board of topics – we want people to be educated, we want quality transportation, we want most of what we have today, but through a voluntary and more efficient mechanism.

    This challenge, however, is leaps and bounds ahead of where we were 15 years ago, when that same man repeated back what he thought he heard, “a librarian?”

    And I’m grateful we have a few people in the party who shun the tired old navy blue suit. The oldsters may not approve, but I don’t care about them. Sure, they still vote now, but they’re dying. I care about how we’re perceived by the youth.

  6. The Rockwell article is part of the revisionist campaign there. The real “lifestyle” flakes were all in the Radical Caucus and allies of Rothbard. But now that Rockwellians are courting racists, Confederates and Reconstructionist they attack people who support equal rights for gays. The gays are a ‘fringe” element but not their friends wanting to bring back the Confederacy.

  7. And I’m grateful we have a few people in the party who shun the tired old navy blue suit. The oldsters may not approve, but I don’t care about them. Sure, they still vote now, but they’re dying. I care about how we’re perceived by the youth.

    Excellent point… let’s not discount ALL the elders though… certain generations perhaps but not all of them. ;-)

  8. This may seem off-point, but I think one of the problems that libertarians have is conveying their philosophy about the environment. The national LP website has an article that describes the US government as one of the worst polluters. While this may be true, it does NOT say what the party’s philosophy is. Since an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the environment is an important and valuable asset to protect, a well-written philosophy would go a long way to demonstrating a rational approach to our shared environment.

  9. Environ —

    I’ve been looking for a sound environmental policy from any political party. Let me know if you find one.

  10. Morey

    I’m not dead yet and I vote. When your generation is my age, the youngsters will be saying the same thing about you.

  11. Julian, if I make it that far and I’m put off by people who don’t dress like me, then I deserve to be written off as irrelevant. Time will tell. I hope.

    “There were anarchists dressed in all black. There were Randians holding long, gold cigarette holders. And hippies from the left and conservatives from the far right. I think the only other person there with a suit was Ed Clark, who later ran for president on the Libertarian ticket.” — Ed Crane on the first LNC Convention

    Ah, give me the vibrant “lifestyle flakes” of yesteryear..