Soundbite Libertarianism

Spurred on by this post at the Volokh Conspiracy, The Agitator begs for a healthy discussion on what really matters (I think) — libertarian marketing in soundbites:

The two I use:

– Don’t hit people, and don’t take their stuff. The government’s only legitimate function is to deal with those who do either.

– Unless and until someone does real harm to someone else, government should leave them alone.

I’ll chime in here: “Libertarian: taking responsibility for your personal life out of government hands.”

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. Having given it the thought it deserves (i.e., roughly 30 seconds), I humbly submit:

    Libertarianism: Free to be free.

    What do I win?

  2. Yep. personal freedom/personal responsibility.
    Sound bytes are good. So hard to compress things into a few seconds to snag interest as folks stride into a polling booth, slowing only to grab the prefilled out ballot of a voting “guide” from the table.

  3. What about environmental protection? Unless every single piece of land and every cubic inch of airspace is privately owned, then environmental protection is still a legitimate role of government IMO.

    Personally, I do not have a problem with the government keeping certain land protected and off the market. This is one of the areas I disagree with neo-libertarians. Freedom isn’t my only value – I also value the beauty of the environment and clean air. This is a major problem most libertiarian thinking – that freedom is the only value and everything else must take a back seat to it. Some compromise is in order here I think.

  4. “Don’t hit people, and don’t take their stuff. The government’s only legitimate function is to deal with those who do either.”

    Be careful with that one, Stephen. It sounds dangerously similar to anarchy. Many libertarians, but not I, would argue that 99.9999% of the voters believe that government has many, many, many more legitimate functions than that.

  5. Leroy-If your envorinment concerns you so much then buy a piece of land and keep it clean. Or not. As for your comments about al land being in private hands…it would be if the government would let loose of their illegal and immoral grip on so-called public lands. (Take note of the amount of pollution the USG generates on “public land”. Nuke tests, toxic dumps, forest fires, river diversions, etc…). Get the land out of the states hands and you’ll see what a clean environment looks like.

  6. “Libertarian: taking responsibility for your personal life out of government hands.”

    No way! There’s a Libertarian concensus that we must have mandatory responsibility to our nation-state, social spending, and government programs.


  7. Paulie — nice try.

    “The libertarian consensus doesn’t mean government spending and social programs are going to go away. Responsibility for yourself does not preclude responsibility to your neighbors and nation.”

    Not even close, though. All the above states is that simply because we are each of us responsible for ourselves doesn’t mean that we totally lack any moral obligations to aid others in need.

    Social programs include little things like the Red Cross, too. Government programs *can* include such things as not-for-profit research… something that *STIMULATES* the economy more than the monies lost to support it *TAKE.*

    You doubt this? Look at this comparison; as nation-wide efforts/concentration on research has declined, so too as the dollar’s buying power in terms of other nations.

    Our economy is based on technological dominance. ‘Nuff said.

  8. Can anyone argue with this question:

    “Who owns you?”

    It could be rephrased as:

    “Own yourself.”

    The word “own” implies both freedom and responsibility.

  9. “it should be OK, unless”

    -From commenter “torridjoe,” an Oregon progressive, at BlueOregon: Libertarians Everywhere!

    “The great power of the Libertarians is that they breathe the tension of the Constitution. They teeter on the edge of coordinated self-determination, and godless anarchy. The common thread through so much of libertarian policy is that it should be OK, unless. And I think there are no two better words to describe the Constitution than OK, unless. The founders sought the document to be spare, providing only the guidelines for when government should get involved. Otherwise, the presumption was that government would NOT be involved.

    On a civil freedoms basis that principle works like a charm. On foreign policy it’s less reliable, and on economic policy it’s a pirate nightmare. But welcome anyway! You’ll love it here.”

  10. IanC – interesting take. However, taken together, the two sentences pretty clearly mean what I think they mean. Certainly, 99.99% plus of non-libertarians would take them to mean exactly that, in fact.

    And while I have no problem with your take on what responsibility to neighbors entails, others would – which means it is NOT a concensus at all.

    When one says “government spending and social programs won’t go away” and follows that up with talk of responsibility to a nation, it is painfully clear that the responsibility is mandatory and is to the nation-state and its government.