Libertarianism, Current Events

Here We Go Again

(This post is co-authored with Sarah Skwire)

Several years ago we co-authored a post on women and libertarianism that we titled “No Girls Allowed” and it kicked off something of a kerfuffle. Well thanks to Jeet Heer and Kevin Drum, this topic is back and we’re back too, this time trying to explain Heer and Drum’s claim that even though libertarianism would be glad to have them, supposedly the girls don’t want in.

The question Heer raises is why Rand Paul polls so poorly among women, which then leads him to suggest that perhaps the problem is not with Paul per se but rather his libertarian political philosophy. Let’s put aside for the moment the question of whether Paul is best described as a libertarian (a claim about which we have our doubts), and let’s ask whether either Heer’s or Drum’s explanations for libertarianism’s lack of appeal to women make sense.

We start by agreeing on the facts:  yes, women are underrepresented in libertarianism. Women are underrepresented in many radical political views held by small numbers of people, not to mention various sorts of unconventional views in general. It’s possible that the male dominance of libertarianism isn’t about libertarianism per se.

That said, women are far more involved in libertarianism than they were 20 or 30 years ago. Steve has been around long enough to remember the virtually female-free environment of libertarian groups in the early 80s. Looking at the number of women attending International Students for Liberty Conference, or the growing number of female academic libertarians (even in the male bastion of economics), as well as the leadership positions at Reason or the Institute for Humane Studies or Students for Liberty that have been held by women, and the new Libertia Society, suggests that change is taking place.

Nonetheless, the gap is real. Heer, who did his homework and interviewed several libertarian journalists as part of his story, offers this explanation for it:

While libertarianism is rarely explicitly sexist, it is hostile to collective efforts to challenge sexism: anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action, paid leave, and the broader net of social services that are particularly necessary to those who have historically been tasked with care-giving jobs within the family. No wonder women as a whole find little in libertarianism that appeals to them.

(He also suggests that libertarianism is nostalgic for a past when white men ruled the world. Katherine Mangu-Ward effectively deals with that claim over at Reason.)

The problem with Heer’s answer is that it begs the question. He simply assumes that all of the “collective efforts to challenge sexism” he lists actually benefit women. That’s precisely the claim that libertarians deny. Isn’t it at least possible that libertarians might be right?  If so, the task for libertarians is to persuade (more) women that the policies associated with traditional feminism might be making them worse off and that less government involvement might lead to better outcomes. Heer could have easily explained why making that case is hard, but instead he chose to portray libertarianism as “hostile” to women’s interests. He assumes away the very issue that should be at the center of the debate.

Assuming that libertarianism is inherently opposed to women’s interests is where Heer’s explanation meets Drum’s.  Drum writes:

Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence…Few women share this fantasy. I don’t know why, and I don’t really want to play amateur sociologist and guess. Perhaps it’s something as simple as the plain observation that in the more libertarian past, women were subjugated to men almost completely. Why would that seem like an appealing fantasy?”

This is complete nonsense, of course, particularly in its construction of libertarianism as innately unconcerned with the suffering of the least well off. We do not believe we have been “held back by rules and regulations to help the weak.” We believe, and have evidence to support, the argument that those rules and regulations hurt the weak at least as often as they help them. Many of us (women included) are libertarians because we are persuaded that economic and other liberties are the best ways to help the least well off to improve their lot.

Drum, like Heer, just assumes away the debate. What makes that assumption even more amusing is that about ten days ago that well-known libertarian newspaper The New York Times ran a piece on how “family-friendly policies” can backfire. Claire Cain Miller wrote: “these policies often have unintended consequences. They can end up discouraging employers from hiring women in the first place, because they fear women will leave for long periods or use expensive benefits.” This is exactly the sort of argument libertarians have made for decades about why government intervention may harm women far more than it helps.

In addition, we should ask what exactly constitutes “women’s interests.” Is the Affordable Care Act in women’s interests? To the extent that women lack health insurance perhaps it is. But we should also consider that women are the clear majority of owners of new small businesses, for whom the costs of ACA compliance might be enough to shut them down. Or perhaps we should consider that women are more likely to be in jobs that would see their hours limited to 30 per week thanks to the ACA. Not so simple now.

What libertarians know, and what we need to do a better job communicating, is that the general narrative that markets are bad for women and government is good, or that free markets allow men to dominate women is more than a little problematic. Yes, the sexes were highly unequal in the 19th century, but it seems unfair to blame markets for that when the state prevented married women from owning property or making contracts. The same is true of the protective labor legislation of the early 20th century, in which men used the power of the state to limit women’s hours and wages when women’s growing economic presence (which was due to the power of the market) was becoming a threat. Unions played a large role in pushing this protective legislation, correctly seeing that women (as well as non-whites) being willing to work for less was a threat to (white) male jobs. The whole concept of a “family wage” for men, enforced by the state, was intended to maintain this state-driven inequality.

We also know that the changes in the nature of work and the wealth that market capitalism brought with it transformed the nature of marriage from one of male dominance to something much closer to a contract of equals, a point recognized by early libertarians such as Ludwig von Mises in 1922. Those same changes also produced the appliances and other technology that substantially reduced the drudgery of housework, as well as the medical advances that reduced the dangers of pregnancy and childbirth. The growing 20th century economy, driven again by the very market capitalism that libertarians celebrate, also meant families had fewer children, making it easier for women to enter the workforce, while simultaneously providing the increased demand for their labor that raised wages available to them. This growth in female labor force participation also gave women increased financial independence, enabling them to more easily leave abusive and otherwise unsatisfactory marriages, especially after the desire to do so led to the age of no-fault divorce by the 1970s. (The interested reader can get a more complete story with far more detail in Steve’s forthcoming book on libertarianism and the family.)

In all of these ways market capitalism and the growth it brought liberated women from a past in which the state, in partnership with individuals who stood to gain from doing so, limited their opportunities and kept them as second-class citizens. Libertarianism is not inherently hostile to efforts to challenge sexism and inequality. Instead it locates the most powerful forces for forwarding sexism and inequality largely in government and sees market capitalism and the institutions of civil society as the best ways to address them. We might be wrong about that, but to characterize libertarianism as inherently hostile to women’s interests is to both caricature libertarianism and to engage in a very unintellectual form of question begging.

Do libertarians need to do a better job of making the theoretical and historical case we’ve laid out here?  We sure do. Do we need to spend more time and intellectual energy addressing issues of interest to women (and non-whites, and other minority and marginalized groups)? We sure do. Do we need to do a better job in marketing our ideas to those who have historically not been attracted to them?  We sure do.

Because otherwise we’re going to end up writing this post again in another few years.

Published on:
Author: Steve Horwitz
  • Sharon Presley

    Thanks, Steve and Sarah, for this excellent article. Obviously I agree with you. Libertarianism is for everyone. We need to market it that way. Too many libertarians get hung up in petty points about “identity groups” or “collectivism” and don’t seem to see that they are misusing the words.
    The libertarian feminist anthology [which I am pleased to say, includes both of you] should help a bit. If all goes well, it’ll be out by the end of the year. I hope many libertarians who are skeptical of feminism will read it and see that feminism is for everyone too.

    • reason60

      “Libertarianism is for everyone.”

      Is it?
      Does it really even want to be?
      How would it answer the religious concepts of solidarity and interdependence, of duty and obligation?

      When you encounter people with this belief, are you seeking compromise, or demanding their conversion?

      • Markets are inherently cooperative and interdependent. You must peacefully persuade people to interact with you if you stand on equal legal ground (required by libertarianism) and cannot use the force of the state. This encourages cooperation in a way nothing else humanity has come up with.

        A free society allows some to stand in solidarity without demanding conformity. It requires us to face the consequences when we shirk our duties, but it cannot force us to fulfill them – but then, no organization of society can.

        When those who disagree with religious solidarity seek to join a society that is not like the one proposed above, do you seek compromise or demand conversion? And why can’t you just let them be?

        • reason60

          First, to answer your question, compromise is what we have now.
          The struggle for consensus between the individual and the community is the conversation all nations have been having since the Enlightenment. What we live now is the compromise between religious principles and individual agency.

          Second, I don’t understand your last paragraph- what do you mean “let them be”? People want to join society, but be left alone? How is that even possible?

      • Swami Cat

        The answers to reason60’s questions may lead us a bit astray, but I think they are valid objections.

        Libertarianism clearly IS NOT for everyone, and should not want to be.

        Most people are self focused to at least some extent (as opposed to being full scale utilitarians for example). If they perceive that their self interest is furthered by privilege, barriers to freedom and forced redistribution then it is quite logical for them to value these actions. They are effectively seen as utility enhancing to the agent in question.

        Of course they could be wrong, and from behind a veil it could be that they really would be better –according to their own values — in a more libertarian society. But if that is the case, then it is up to Libertarians to persuade them. Or libertarians can just continue to shake their heads at the poor fools’ silliness.

        Libertarian societal change fights with one hand tied behind its back. It requires voluntary persuasion and yet depends upon the values and insights in question being widespread social norms. It seems to me libertarians had better get a lot better at persuasion. Indeed, I think they pretty much suck at the enterprise.

        • reason60

          I asked the question because both the post and some of the comments assume a posture of argument- that non-libertarians need to be persuaded that libertarianism is superior.

          But this assumes an unexamined starting point- Superior to accomplish what?
          it assumes that libertarians and the rest of us share a desired goal and you simply have a superior method of getting there, which we can’t grasp for some reason.

          But it isn’t your arguments that we find unconvincing- its your essential moral postulates.

          The conception of the human person I see described here is preposterous and at odds with lived experience and empirical observation.

          • Swami Cat

            I would say that both issues are important to the issue — values and arguments.

            I agree that people flat out have differing values. Unless libertarians agree on values with non libertarians, it may very well be that they are talking past each other. The path to a destination depends upon the destination which is valued.

            But, even if they did have the same values and destination in mind, there can still be massive disagreement (and mistaken beliefs) on how best to get there. Or even differences in opinion on which values determine the best path to the same destination.

            If libertarians wish to change the world, they need to persuade a significantly larger proportion of the population that their destitution is best AND that their path is best. If large, significant subsets of the population — such as women, minorities, and/or people with IQ’s below 130 — aren’t buying the pitch, then the pitch either needs to improve or libertarians need to lock themselves in the closet and just agree it is all a bunch of philosophical masturbation.

            As I mentioned above, many competing political ideologies are not restricted by non violence. They can use force to require everyone else to play along. Libertatianism requires persuasion and seems particularly ineffective at such.

          • TracyW

            it assumes that libertarians and the rest of us share a desired goal and you simply have a superior method of getting there, which we can’t grasp for some reason.

            Really? I think the advantage of libertarianism is that it doesn’t assume that we all share a desired goal.

            If you want to spend your life pursuing God by living in dire poverty on the top of a pole somewhere, libertarianism says “Cool, go for it”. If you want spend your life in the service of your fellow man by providing free prostate exams, libertarianism says “Cool, go for it, just remember to offer them, not force anyone”. If you want to spend your life in the service of Mammon by making vast sums of money betting against fools on the currency market, libertarianism says “Cool, go for it” (although some of us may smile wryly at your over-confidence.) If you want to start a commune dedicated to showing Communism can work, libertarianism says “Cool, go for it”.

            Compare say a society which decides that we all share a desired goal of providing excellent health care to everyone. Under that, if your goal is providing free prostrate exams, or making money on the currency markets, okay you’re contributing (government can tax the currency trader). But if you want to opt out and go find God, or how to build a perfect Communist society, you are depriving your fellow citizens of their right to health care.

          • niav


            I think the advantage of libertarianism is that it doesn’t assume that we all share a desired goal.

            That is a trait of libertarianism, but I don’t think it’s much of an advantage.

            In my opinion most people are quite “groupish” and assume that we share many goals.

            For example, if you live in the UK, a huge majority of people will assume that you share their goal of having healthcare “free at the point of use”. Not having this belief and voicing said opinion, on libertarian grounds, is a very good way to becoming socially ostracised.

            Or (perhaps a smaller majority but still a majority) believe that welfare should not be time-limited, but be available on a need basis, for as long as the need exists, even if the recipient is unwilling to find work. This of course has created a permanent unemployable underclass in the UK, but the alternative is widely seen as unacceptable, and routinely depicted in very strong terms varying from “Dickensian workhouses” to “social cleansing” and “genocide”.

            The libertarian position is in my view largely incompatible with these goals since among other things they require huge, expensive state bureaucracies, coupled with a significant expropriation of earnings to pay for direct distribution as welfare, or indirect distribution, as health care.

            To continue with the example, since in the UK now the majority of the population are net recipients of the so-called government largesse (i.e. other people’s earnings – and the trend is looking to continue), there are a lot of people benefiting from said expropriation. This is explicitly called “fairness” in the UK, by the entire political class, media etc. It’s unlikely that a libertarian position would ever be attractive to anything but a small section.

            Libertarianism is widely seen in the UK as callous, uncaring, and catering to the rich, precisely because it is seen as not sharing the same goals as the majority.

          • TracyW

            Good point. I should have said “advantage to me.” Or, maybe, as you suggest, “trait”.

          • reason60

            Is it just these goals that require a huge bureaucracies?

            Doesn’t the most basic property protection and contract enforcement regime require huge coercive bureaucracies?
            I mean, just the regulations and case law pertaining to real estate could fill a library.

            Add to this the regulatory requirements that define and enforce contract law, and even the most minarchist regime imaginable will be a massive Leviathan, backed by coercive taxes.

          • niav

            I doubt it. If you look at how much a modern state spends on law & order, it’s a small fraction compared to the cost of entitlements.

            In the UK 2014 spending estimates for example you can see that “protection” (which includes law, policing, prisons etc) is a measly 1.74% of GDP, where pensions, health care and welfare are 22.59% of GDP (source:

            Also, it’s not “coercive taxes” that are the problem, but when the coercive taxes are not used for producing public goods. For instance, when group A is coercively taxed and the proceedings are passed on to group B.

          • Sean II

            You are very interesting commenter, and I really hope you stick around.

          • genemarsh

            We can always use more guys around here!

          • efcdons

            But you are showing the amount spent on policing in a society that includes distributive social spending. One would suspect the cost spent on policing would skyrocket if the population being policed was did not receive entitlements.

          • niav

            It could be, but it doesn’t follow. One could also reasonably suspect that if the entitlements and regulations were severely reduced – and correspondingly also the tax rates – people would be richer and more people would provide for themselves, as the opportunities for business and employment would grow as the cost of doing business and providing employment would go down.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            really ? you mean people do not inter into voluntary agreements, work to enhance their standing, and cooperate with others without the threat of some government?

          • reason60

            Sure they do.
            But voluntariness is never sufficient- every society I am aware of has some sort of compulsory norms.

            The concept of a modern society of any size operating entirely on voluntary basis seems preposterous.
            As above, can anyone point to one?

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            You moved the goal posts, I never said there was no government, I agree with you that some government is needed for property rights. But you created not just a government but in your words a giant leviathan of rules and bureaucracy. I just do not think that is always the case.

      • Tedd

        Your question suggests to me that you don’t understand libertarianism. Religion is entirely compatible with libertarianism. Even Amish culture is entirely compatible with libertarianism. How could Amish culture exist except in a place that respected liberty? Why do you think they went to the U.S. in the first place?

        Libertarianism is precisely about allowing private value judgements (such as notions of solidarity and interdependence, or duty and obligation) to remain private judgements, only susceptible to intervention by law when they are forced on someone else.

        You may be confusing personal value judgements of libertarians you have encountered with principles of the philosophy itself. Perhaps that is a reliable heuristic with other political philosophies, but it isn’t with libertarianism.


    “Do libertarians need to do a better job of making the theoretical and historical case we’ve laid out here? We sure do.”

    Why? The case has been made in a variety of excellent ways by many brilliant people. At this point, if you don’t get it, you’re probably too stupid to get it.

    “Do we need to spend more time and intellectual energy addressing issues of interest to women (and non-whites, and other minority and marginalized groups)? We sure do.”

    Why? We’ve had the state in various forms for 6000 years or so. If women and minorities can’t figure out what’s going on, that’s their defect. The notion that we have to tailor arguments to them so that they can grasp what’s what is either true, in which case these groups should be embarrassed or it’s false, in which case these groups should be insulted.

    “Do we need to do a better job in marketing our ideas to those who have historically not been attracted to them? We sure do.”

    There are really on two reasons people are not attracted to libertarianism:
    1. Vested interest in having a state.
    2. Stupidity.

    Stop making excuses for people. This reeks of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

    • Steven Horwitz

      I’d far rather my approach than assuming everyone who disagrees with me is evil or stupid. That reeks of the arrogance and bad faith that might well explain why our arguments haven’t succeded.

      • GTFOofNOLA

        There are many creationists despite the arguments of physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists, astronomers, and other scientists. Yet we don’t assume the fault lies with the scientists for failing to make sound arguments. We don’t tell scientists that they must tailor their arguments toward creationists because creationists have special conditions which must be taken into account. No, we say creationists are either profiting from creationism or they’re stupid.

        It’s not libertarians at fault for libertarianism not being accepted anymore than it’s Einstein’s fault that there are still creationists. And not only does your argument reek of the soft bigotry of low expectations, but it’s actually a form of victim-blaming, since libertarians are the real victims of the state and those who support it, and now you’re telling us it’s our own fault we’re being victimized. Ridiculous.

        • TuffeeInNola

          Agreed. We’re not going to fix the intelligence gap, and catering am argument to their “needs” is probably the worst thing that could be done.

          Why can’t we just be happy that we can use a quick discussion of Libertarian thought to determine, from her ability to respond, whether she’s good for a night, a week, or, heaven forbid, something longer.

          • Steven Horwitz

            Next time I need to show someone exactly what’s wrong with libertarianism and why we can’t make more progress, I know exactly where to send them. “We’ve figured it all out and we have all the answers and those who disagree with us are just too evil or stupid to get it.” I can’t IMAGINE why people who disagree with us aren’t interested in serious conversations.

          • rightcoast

            That looked serious to me. It looks like your argument is perfectly analogous to the one about biology/science, and that analogy seriously took the wind out of the crux of your argument.

          • TracyW

            Do you seriously think people are creationists just because no one has told them that being a creationist is stupid?

          • Kurt H

            As I noted above the analogy has another problem — libertarian economic views do not have the same scientific status that evolution does. Not even close.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Yup, it’s my fault women and minorities aren’t attracted to libertarianism. It has nothing to do with them since they don’t really have full human agency according to your argument. They need to be coddled and doted on and such. Any failing is all on the part of us pale males.

            Libertarian ideas should sell themselves. They shouldn’t need packaging and they shouldn’t need tailoring. Stop blaming white males, dude.

          • Swami Cat

            If you have a philosophy of social cohesion which is understood by one percent of the population, yet the philosophy itself postulates that it must be entered into voluntarily by consensus then you have a self negating philosophy.

            Shared values and conventions are not the same as scientific theories. Science works even if the masses don’t understand or believe them. This is not true about voluntary shared norms and institutions. Absent wide scale persuasion, it is not the dominant heuristic, and as such is untenable.

          • TracyW

            Fault is a useless concept to argue about outside a courtroom.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            That’s prima facie ridiculous. Finding fault can be an inquiry into cause and effect, which is something useful for us human beings in a wide variety of settings, not just inside courtrooms. You didn’t really think this comment through, did you?

          • TracyW

            Finding fault can be an enquiry into cause and effect, but that doesn’t mean that all enquiries into finding cause and effect are cases of finding fault.

            Fault has moral overtones. “This person was at fault and thus deserves to be punished. “. People don’t want to be punished, thus they seek arguments as to why they’re not at fault. You yourself state several.

            Enquires into cause and effect can however be made along the line of “This bad thing happens, what can I do that can stop it from happening?”

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Fault could be “We did it that person’s way last time, and it didn’t work out like he said, therefore let’s not do it his way again.” I am not sure what your point is.

          • TracyW

            My apologies, I think I misread you. When you said things like “It’s not libertarians at fault for libertarianism not being accepted anymore than it’s Einstein’s fault that there are still creationists. ” I thought by “fault” you were referring to an idea something like libertarians or Einsteins ought to have done something different in some sort of moral justice sense.
            Now I’m confused as to what you did mean.

          • Kurt H

            No one is blaming white males *in general*, just white males like you. Also, I love how you are accusing other people of denying women agency when you just got done arguing that women’s political views are limited by their biology!

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Yours is actually an incredibly sexist argument as it presumes that women are unable to consider ideas and must instead relate to the messengers.

            If women were predisposed to the ideas of liberty, rather than statism, but merely disliked the messengers, why don’t we see them founding their own organizations and communities to advance those ideas in company that they found more palatable.

            Either women are incapable of considering the merits (and faults) of an idea (any idea) or they just do not find certain ideas interesting/compelling/palatable…

            I prefer not to think of women as idiots (any more than I think of any person as an idiot anyway) and I think in this case, women are choosing to avoid ideas which they see collectively as not in their best interests.

          • Kurt H

            I love it when sexists play the “No, you’re the real sexist!” card. I am not the one making biological determinist arguments. I am not the one demanding that women make their own libertarian organizations to prove that it’s not your fault they are absent.

            Also, still waiting for you to “explain” why black people typically don’t grok libertarianism? I’m sure that won’t be embarrassing at all.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Just to be clear, your argument is that women want to be libertarian and they really do oppose the state, but there are some evil misogynists in the libertarian movement, so women have chosen to be statists instead.

            Even you know you’re full of shit.

          • Kurt H

            No my argument is that the misogynists in the movement make women understandably suspicious that libertarian policies will actually promote their liberty. If libertarianism is so good for women, why are these sexist guys hanging around and not getting called out for it?

            Still waiting for you to “explain” the persistent perfidy of black people . . .

          • Pfloyd

            Given the racist and sexist overtones of most of his comments on articles, this person is exactly why libertarians have to consistently work extra hard to even get opponents to take us seriously, let alone consider our arguments.

            Maybe our biggest problem isn’t that our ideas are ill-considered, it’s that we have people with the beliefs that this fellow does waving our banner and shouting the loudest.

          • Sean II

            You’ve sure got the crowd on your side, Steve, but you’re missing something very big.

            There’s a mountain of evidence suggesting that the real reason “why people who disagree with us aren’t interested in serious conversations” is because their arguments won’t stand up to serious conversation.

            Call it whatever you like, but anti-capitalism has gone through so many guises, adopted and discarded so many different arguments, that it’s obvious some people mean to stick with it no matter what.

            First we heard the market creates poverty. When that proved wrong, we heard it causes war. When that didn’t work, we heard it doesn’t matter because the market is unjust. When that withered, we heard the market impoverishes art and culture. Lately, we’re being told the market hates women, minorities, and the weather. If that doesn’t catch, I’m sure the market will be denounced on the grounds that it gave rise to Rand Paul’s hairstyle.

            At this point, any reasonable person should conclude that no matter how well or how politely we answer the next objection, another one will be raised up to replace it.

            Indeed, our opponents are very conspicuous by NOT taking your advice. They’re cheap, tactless, and nasty. Faced with a “serious conversation”, they point and sputter. They make free use of ad hominem, motive fallacies, and anything else at hand. Far from hurting their cause, these tactics work like a charm, allowing the left, for example, to enforce near perfect orthodoxy on college campuses for decades.

            And now here you are, saying the problem is that WE are not polite and engaging enough to THEM, to this gang of ideological bullies, who dominate our intellectual life in part because they have no scruples about being polite and engaging.

            That’s really quite incredible. Forget the fact that what you call for is morally atrocious – the idea that we who have arguments need to gently court the kind of people who, when beaten, happily fall back on the tactics of screaming “Koch Brothers Rape Culture Trigger Warning, Racist Corporations Aren’t People, That’s Science!”.

            Let’s leave that aside, and just focus on the empirical problem, which is this…

            When you suggest the market is unpopular because we’re not outreachy enough, you’re almost certainly wrong. To the extent that the market remains unpopular, it appears to be so because of some very stable and enduring long-term factors.

            We know this because the anti-market mentality has survived so many cataclysmic falsification events.

            Now, I’m up for studying those factors, trying to figure out how anti-market bias got itself nested in the human mind.

            You’re for…what? Trying to just charm that bias out of existence? Let me know how that works out.

          • Swami Cat

            But I don’t see the argument as being that libertarians need to be “polite and engaging enough to this gang of ideological bullies.” It is that they need to lay out a better case to more people, specifically including women.

            Free markets are complex in operation and result and in many ways counterintuitive to pretty much everyone. This makes for easy victims falling to lies and half truths which appeal to these cognitive biases. (and we are still setting aside the differing values issue Reason60 makes below).

            If the path is too complicated and nuanced for anybody other than a small minority to grok, yet the requirements for voluntary shared conventions requires a majority to buy in, then we have just defined the fundamental Achilles Heel of libertarianism. It is self defeating until a breakthrough in explanatory simplicity is achieved.

          • Sean II

            I think that’s just about right. The counter-intuitive nature of market economics probably is our key weakness.

            You can see this by looking inside the movement itself. The kind of nuanced, consequentialist libertarians you’ll find on this blog are rare even within libertarianism.

            The most popular branches of our movement are inspired by the compact (but unreal) “axioms” of Rand and Rothbard.

            Indeed, if I didn’t care about the truth, if I only cared about the movement, I’d say we should go full Straussian and peddle the simple rhetoric of non-aggression and individual rights (even knowing its many flaws). For that is clearly the catchy hook in our little rap.

            Our flow, on the other hand, may be retarded, but it’s too complicated for anyone but a connoisseur to hear.

            As always, the fact that we don’t like this is not a reason to deny it.

          • zic

            somewhere in all this verbiage is the missing point that most women and minorities who ‘don’t get’ libertarianism are against free markets instead of being for well-regulated markets.

            These two things are not the same.

            but it’s a trademark of the breed — accuse others of not getting it while you don’t get it yourself. I’m sure all those woman business owners aren’t anti-market, for instance. And I’m equally sure that they’re all, to some degree, beneficiaries of laws that prevent discrimination against women.

          • Sean II

            When someone says they’re in favor of “well-regulated markets”, it means about the same thing as when someone says they’re in favor of “responsible free speech”.

            In other words, it’s bullshit.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            The problem with women and statism (from a liberty perspective) is that throughout history women have had to make wagers in mate selection that they would pick a man who (along with his family/tribe) could support/protect them.

            If that man was diligent, hard working and had a good family/tribal (and later political) structure behind him, that bet would pay off, if it didn’t it would not.

            With the advent of the state, and in particularly the modern liberal/socialist state, the government has become the Ubermensch and a much better bet for security than nearly any individual man.

          • Kurt H

            This is some evo-psych bullshit of the highest order. Women have only needed to “pick a man” in the context of agricultural societies with inherited property. In hunter-gatherer societies (most of human existence), child-rearing is a joint communal effort. There are, even today, societies that don’t understand that babies have a single, unique father. They think that multiple men can contribute to making a baby and that they all can play a father role in the child’s life. Mating exclusivity is very recent in human history.

            As such, the current bias toward statism among women is clearly just lingering aspects of patriarchy (and some of the contributors to this blog have argued this at length). As we have advanced into the scientific age, the conditions supporting male dominance have withered, but some aspects remain. Libertarianism should be forward looking and positive towards feminism.

          • niav


            Being in business doesn’t make one automatically pro-free-market, as you seem to think.

            Often it’s quite the contrary. A lot of onerous regulation, establishing and defending occupational licensing etc comes from the business community, this being used to carve out lucrative markets and kill the competition.

            Things have gotten to the stage where it’s almost always safe to assume that if someone (say, a politician) is pro-business then he or she is also anti-free market, pro-cronyism, and supporting of heavy-handed government intervention, subsidies, picking winners and losers.

            And I can well see examples where not all women are beneficiary of laws that prevent discrimination. Take maternity laws for example; the more onerous they are, the less likely is for a company to hire women of reproductive age.

            It stands to reason. If you have a small business with a few employees, and the state requires you to pay many months of maternity leave, automatically grant long leaves of absence for child-rearing, guarantee their jobs when (and if) they unilaterally decide to come back, and at the same time you’re forbidden from firing them, it won’t make good business sense to hire women.

            So yes, some benefit, but a lot of them don’t. I think that all such laws giving essentially preferential treatment to a category (doesn’t need to be a minority) has a dark side.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            excellent points

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Exactly. I was playing nice before, but if people want the truth about women vs libertarianism, it boils down to this: biologically women are natural authoritarians. It makes sense when you consider that keeping children alive by any means necessary has been a biological imperative for most women for the entire existence of humankind. Want to know why very few women will ever be smitten by libertarianism? It’s not because we’re misogynist pigs. It’s not because we’re mean. It’s not because we don’t articulate the benefits of freedom and the nasty effects of the state well enough. It’s because women prefer managed, controlled environments with minimal threats to safety and security, and they perceive the state as a good provider of those. There it is.

          • TracyW

            By this logic we should expect to see authoritarian movements such as neo-Nazism or Communism being predominantly female. Do we? (Genuine question, I don’t know of any statistics).

        • rightcoast

          This is actually … true.

          Not the easiest point to accept, but that was completely true.

        • Sean II

          Wow, you make ME seem tactful. To return the favor, let me add one point you missed:

          The fact that most people are stupid, or at least too stupid to grasp the more nuanced arguments for liberty, is not a forbidden fact…if, say, we happen to be discussing Brennan’s work on voters.

          Had that been the focus of the original post, you could say very nearly the same thing and be praised for it here, by the same people. You could even note the fact that voter ignorance doesn’t match the census when it comes to race and gender. I’ve heard these very truths spoken here, with nary a head exploded.

          But in this context, you say the same thing and thus become “the problem with libertarianism”.

          Of course this happened last time, too. Anyone who refused to say mea culpa for the lack of women in libertarianism – i.e. anyone who tried to discuss other possible explanations for this – was deemed culpable for the lack of women in libertarianism.

          Call it a witch test, if you will…

        • TracyW

          GTFO, has anyone ever called you stupid for one of your beliefs? If so, did it convince you to change your mind?

          • Sean II

            You’re wrong on this one Tracy.

            Many of the most important lessons in life are learned under threat of being called stupid.

            Don’t touch the stove, don’t play in the street, don’t drink and drive, 2+2=4, Aristotle was not Belgian, you name it.

            Just ask anyone here who used to be Objectivist. I’ll bet many can tell you eerily similar stories of painful humiliation, about how they walked into their first graduate philosophy seminar and tried to drop a Rand grenade, only to have it blow up in their hand.

            If they’re the introspective type, they can also tell you how that pain was instrumental in changing their minds, and forcing them to grow up.

            Being wrong hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. No amount of “respectful engagement” is going to take the sting out of it.

          • TracyW

            Sean II, of the examples you give, few of them for me at least involved being called stupid. Maybe the “don’t drink and drive” campaign.

            They might well be painful learning experiences, touching a hot stove certainly was. Being wrong hurts, and I agree that no amount of “respectful engagement” is going to take the sting out of it.

            But being called stupid is not the same as actually being wrong. Any idiot can call someone else stupid, and they often do. If you can make a Randian grenade blow up in the user’s hands, why bother adding an insult any idiot can use on top of it?

            Personally I regard being called stupid as a reason to up my Bayesian prior that I’m actually right.

          • Sean II

            Did it ever occur to you…that you didn’t get called stupid because you’re a smart person, who learned not to touch the stove on your first try?

            And did it ever occur to you that there are other people – lots of them in fact, most of them in fact – who aren’t quite so keen, and who therefore needed a little extra to get the message?

            Consider an example: nearly everyone in the world who knows these words understands that demand curves slope downward: the higher the price, the lower the quantity demanded.

            Despite this stone-hard truth of the universe, there are some people who insist that the demand curve for labor cannot possibly do this. We call them minimum wage advocates, and they believe – they fanatically persist in believing – that you can raise the price of labor and get an increase in the quantity demanded. They don’t believe this about any other good, just the one.

            At this point in history, every argument they’ve ever had has been answered and then some. All they really have left is the wish that they should be right, reason and evidence be damned.

            If you can’t call that belief stupid for fear of offending those who stupidly believe it, then you’ve committed yourself to lying in the name of false equivalence.

            If someone says “2+2=5”, do you respond by saying “Interesting perspective. Let’s start a conversation around that.” No, you tell them they’re wrong, and you set about proving it. If after that they don’t relent, you tell them they’re being stupid. In other words, you try to make it hurt.

            Clarify this for me: are you suggesting that we should proceed differently in the case of downward sloping demand curves? That when someone denies their existence (or worse, accepts it then maddeningly denies it in one convenient case!), we should treat politely, like it’s something akin to the eternal clash between tomato and tom-ah-to?

          • TracyW

            Did it ever occur to you…that you didn’t get called stupid because you’re a smart person, who learned not to touch the stove on your first try?

            Nope. I’ve had too many burns from hot stoves (literally) to believe that.

            If you can’t call that belief stupid for fear of offending those who stupidly believe it, then you’ve committed yourself to lying in the name of false equivalence.

            If you believe that not saying something that you think is the same as lying, then I’m surprised you’re not posting even more frequently.

            If someone says “2+2=5”, do you respond by saying “Interesting perspective. Let’s start a conversation around that.”

            On the issue of people trying to assert blatantly stupid things like 2+2 = 5, I find that the best way of dealing with that kind of nonsense is to put a price on it.
            “Okay, you believe that 2+2 = 5? How about I pay you £2 and £2 and you pay me £0.5? You’ll have £5 – £4.50, so you’ll make a profit of 50p. And I’m willing to make this deal as many times as you like.”

            No one has ever taken me up on one of those deals. People suddenly become a lot smarter when money is involved.

            So, if you want to deal with someone that demand curves don’t slope downwards, offer to make a bet about the outcome of that $15 an hour minimum wage in San Francisco.

            Of course you might be luckier than I’ve been and come up with someone like Paul Ehrlich, who makes the bet, loses it and still claims that they believe, but hey, you’ve both undermined their incredibility in the face of any onlookers, and you’re 50p richer than you would be otherwise.

          • Sean II

            Funny about the stove.

            But while I like the sound of futarchy as much as the next guy around here, there are some serious problems with it.

            For example, even knowing what we know, you shouldn’t actually place that San Francisco minimum wage wager. Too much noise involved. Too many variables.

            The indexes could go hot and create a temporary spike in hiring big enough to overpower the disemployment effect within whatever time frame you specify. Or…it could take longer than you guessed for Krusty Burger to make the necessary capital-labor substitution. Or maybe enough people will bail out of the labor force altogether to foul the official unemployment stats.

            As you may know, there are few things quite so tedious as having an “empirical” argument about the minimum wage with some progressive ass-hat who insists that Australia proves that the river of labor demand actually flows uphill, because he doesn’t know what ceteris paribus means, or because his rhetorical needs at the time require him to pretend he doesn’t.

          • TracyW

            The test of “put your money where your mouth is” does derive a lot of its effectiveness from the fact that it cuts both ways.

          • genemarsh

            We finally get a glimpse of your pain. Who hurt you, Sean?

        • Kurt H

          The implication here is that libertarian views on economics have the same level of scientific consensus as evolution does. This is flatly false. In fact, libertarians have an annoying tendency to be suckered by fringe groups with little standing in the economic literature.

          • niav

            Actually a lot of libertarian economic ideas enjoy a very wide consensus among economists.

            For example, most economists argue for free markets, free trade, against minimum wage laws, against mercantilism (bizarrely, again in fashion), against cronyism, that high taxes and high government spending are counter-productive and impede growth etc.

            Depicting them as “fringe groups with little standing” is not even remotely accurate.

          • Kurt H

            I do think these are majority positions in economics, but only free trade and anti-cronyism would constitute consensus positions. There is considerable debate about the magnitude of unemployment from minimum wage (although I favor the camp that sees the unemployment effect as significant). There is also growing evidence that inequality impedes growth, or is at least link to something that does impede growth and that taxes may be useful to counteract this. There is also considerable disagreement about the viability of stimulus spending, and evidence that it is effective in recessions.

            There are also plenty of common positions in economics that contradict typical libertarian arguments. For example, there is a near consensus that a gold standard is not an effective monetary policy, and that sound monetary policy is an important role for government. There is also widespread agreement that natural monopolies exist and, thus, regulated utilities are necessary. Most economists favor intellectual property laws, even though many libertarians do not (here I am skeptical of the dominant view). There are also legions of market failure examples where it takes the intervention of the state to provide the necessary mechanisms to alleviate an externality.

            By fringe groups, an example would be people who peddle the Austrian school, particularly its anti-empiricism.

          • reason60

            It does have a certain fundamentalist aspect to it- the idea that libertarianism is a scientific theory independent of human belief and values, existing eternal and true regardless of whether anyone likes it or not.
            There is also the problem with slinging around buzzwords carelessly like “free market” or “onerous regulation” as if they have a universal meaning.
            Both of those words really just mean “Something I like/ dislike”.

          • niav

            Yes, not to mention the bigger problem of flinging inane comments around, in which you misrepresent positions and make little ugly snide remarks, instead of honestly debating a point, if you have one.

          • reason60

            You don’t think that “free market” and “onerous regulation” are buzzwords?

            What is a “free market” free from?

            How is it different than say, the status quo market in consumer goods?

            When economists and politicians say “free market” I know what they mean- they are referring to the status quo of markets regulated by states at the municipal, state, federal and international level and bound by case law. Markets which are formed by the power of the state to define property and contract, and impose this regime coercively on dissenters.

            So when a guy on a blog says he doesn’t like the status quo and wants “free markets” instead, I really have no idea what he’s talking about.

          • niav

            No, I don’t think they are buzzwords, and I particularly disagree with you stating that if something doesn’t have universal value (like newtonian mechanics) then it’s useless and a matter of pure preference.

            As for markets being created by the state, that is sheer nonsense. The very existence of black markets (which by the way are essential in socialist, centrally planned economies) proves this. Not even currency is needed for a black market: I went to the doctor, when I was living in one of those “progressive” centrally planned socialist paradises, by giving soap as payment.

            It is true, some economists and politicians mean different things by “free markets”, but politicians know little about the subject anyway (and no incentive to do anything but lie and pander to their electorate). Most economists agree on the definition of a free market, which is, if you really need Econ 101, a market in which prices are freely established between buyers and sellers, and in which there are no (or very low) barriers to entry either as a buyer or a seller.

            So hopefully now when a guy on a blog says he wants free markets, you’ll have some idea.

          • reason60

            Right, and in black markets, property is not protected by a state, and contracts are not enforced by one.

            If this is what you mean by “free markets”, great, lets just be clear.

          • niav

            I think I made it perfectly clear what I meant by “free markets”. Read it again, if in doubt. It’s not a fringe view. If you look up the wikipedia page or any basic economics book, it will give you more or less the same thing.

            It has nothing to do with the state protecting property. The state protecting property is useful in general, but not a characteristic of free markets, I can well imagine a system where the state wouldn’t protect property and free markets would still exist.

            By the way, you write about the state protecting property as if it were doing us a great favour out of some disinterested greatness of spirit. Nothing of the sort – we pay the state (handsomely) to protect our property. If it didn’t do that, we’d have little reason to have a state to begin with.

          • reason60

            This just illustrates my point, that when you say “free market” you are imagining something that exists with little or no barriers to entry, equal information, level playing field and all that, without a state to secure property and contract and establish such niceties.
            Yet no one outside the libertarian camp can imagine such a thing and no such creature has ever existed.

            So slinging the term around only confuses the hell out of everyone else.

          • niav

            No, it doesn’t illustrate your point whatsoever.

            You keep pushing this straw-man argument about the state protecting property rights making a free market somehow not free. It’s a false idea.

            As I explained, protection of property rights (done by the state or through some alternative arrangement) is not a characteristic of a free market. Not to say that property rights are not important in general. Of course they are. And the state is not the only one doing the protection. A lot of property is in fact not protected by the state at all. It’s nominally protected, but not effectively. If you look at any crime statistics, you’ll immediately see that the state retrieves and returns very little stolen property. I can tell you from, unfortunately, extensive personal experience: when your property gets stolen or damaged, all you’ll get (at most) is a police report. The insurance company will make it better.

            Nor is equal information a characteristic of a free market. Equal information doesn’t exist in humans, and information has a price, sometimes a substantial one.

            And you missed the most important aspect about the free market, which is that the state has no involvement in pricing, directly or indirectly. Unlike, say, health care, legal services, farm land, energy prices or many other things. The state can – and does – distort markets in many ways. Occupational licensing. Onerous (burdensome/useless) regulation. Privileges (targeted tax cuts, subsidies, state-sanctioned monopolies). Price fixing and price floors. And so on.
            Free markets do exist, and in my opinion, for the not-so-free ones, the freer a market (i.e. less state involvement) , the better it works. The state distorts incentives and prices in almost any market it involves itself in, and while some markets are natural monopolies and require regulation, it’s unfortunately rare that state-induced distortion would make it better.

            On one thing you’re right. You’re very confused. I’m not a libertarian, although I sympathise with certain libertarian ideas.

          • reason60

            Can you point to an example of a free market, without a state? Other than like a black market or something?

          • niav

            I don’t know what you mean by “without a state” and why that is relevant at all.

          • reason60

            Because I am asserting that a state is a prerequisite of a free market, and it appeared that you disagreed. So I’m curious if such a thing exists.
            But just to make it simple- can you point to something you consider a “free market”? Just so we’re working off the same frame of reference?

          • niav

            You seem to assert that the state is a prerequisite to have any market, and we established that to be false. So it’s certainly false to assert that the state is a prerequisite to having free markets, which are a subset of all the possible markets.

            As to examples, you should be able to find them around easily, unless you live in North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba. Most things we buy and sell in the Western world are transacted through free markets.

          • reason60

            OK well this is getting somewhere.

            So when you say “free” market, you mean the status quo that we have, where the market is free, but regulated.
            So the obvious question is what you want to change about it- less regulation? The complete abolition of the state?
            I press this point only to separate out the existing from the theoretical-

            A less regulated market is easy to imagine and discuss.

            A stateless market is theoretical, and a bit harder to have a discussion about.

          • niav

            “where the market is free, but regulated”

            Free, period. Not regulated. It’s not that complicated.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            no, you evidently only think you know what he is saying

          • reason60

            I agree with you- I thought I knew, but apparently we have different ideas about what his use of the term means.
            Is “free market” some real thing we can all point to and say ‘there it is!” or does it exist only as a theoretical construct?

            Because this whole thing about “can it exist without a state” hinges on that. All the real economies I am aware of have a state behind them.

            If somebody wants to assert that markets can exist without a state, they have to either point to a real one, or construct a really convincing argument for a theoretical one.

            Notice I’m not even arguing which one is preferable, at this point- I’m just trying to find a common starting point.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            I agree there must be a government of some sort, but free markets is a relative term. The USA is considered more or less a free market system although in fact we are a crony capitalist system with a huge degree of government intrusion and socialism. But we are free market compared to most of Europe who have even harsher restrictions on trade, entrepreneurial ventures, and even the movement of capital.

            Most people I think would agree that the US sometime before the New Deal, would be closer to a true free market. Or perhaps Hong Kong in the last century.

          • niav

            Good we agree that many economic libertarian ideas enjoy widespread adherence (at least among economists).

            Depicting the Austrian school as a fringe group is incomprehensible to me. Hayek and Von Mises are anything but fringe.

            All groups, not only libertarians, are attracted to some extent by economic quackery.

            If anything, “progressives” are by far the most prone to crazy theories involving central planning and a mythical all-knowing, disinterested, benevolent state (read: politicians and bureaucrats). Most of these theories are extremely dubious, intellectually dishonest, comprehensively disproved or downright absurd.

          • Kurt H

            Hayek is the only Austrian that anyone in economics really gives a shit about, and he was the least “Austrian” of them. Von Mises is almost completely irrelevant in modern economics. If you count Schumpeter, he has a bit more influence. But hardly anyone knows or cares about Rothbard or any of the Mises Institute folks.

            The Austrian school is definitely fringe. The best evidence of this is that most economists don’t even respond to the notion of “schools” anymore. There is simply one economics, struggling towards consensus.

          • niav

            Your best evidence is exceptionally weak, considering that in economic commentary it’s very frequent to hear about behavioural economics, keynesian economics, the Chicago school, public choice economics, neoclassical economics and so forth. By your definition, everything is “fringe”. Or perhaps only those you disagree with?

            As to the consensus struggle, I think you got only the struggle part right.

          • Kurt H

            Economic commentary and the actual profession are two different things. For example, behavioral econ is a method. Public choice is a body of theory. These are not “schools” so much as sub-fields within the profession. Keynes is very influential, but hardly anyone calls themselves a Keynesian, or even a new-Keynesian. Most economists write papers in multiple theoretical paradigms or try to incorporate aspects of one body of theory into another body of theory. The concept of a “school” implies that there are contained exclusive clubs with widely different methodology. This has not been the case in macro for about thirty years, and in micro for at least fifty. Most economic commentary is echoing fights that occurred decades ago.

          • niav

            When I said economic commentary I was specifically referring to commentary (articles, blogs, podcasts) done by professional economists, not random people off the street.

            As for the rest of the comment, I feel that replying is an exercise in futility. I expect that next you’ll tell me that by “schools” we don’t mean actual buildings where children go to study.

            Leaving that aside, I disagree with your opinion. I don’t think there’s anywhere close to a convergence to a consensus (economics is more like history then mathematics in my opinion), and I think that a lot of modern economic ideas can be attributed to economic, yes, schools (or bodies of theory).

            Most importantly, I don’t think you have refuted the thing that riled you up so much, which is that libertarian economic ideas are mainstream. Call them “liberal” if you must, I personally agree with that, as long as by “liberal” you mean “classical liberal” and not “progressive”, which is another thing altogether.

            On this subject, I think there’s a win for libertarians. The “progressives” are increasingly so anti-liberal to the point where it’s fair so say, in my opinion, that mainstream economics is largely libertarian.

          • Kurt H

            I think you misunderstand. The concept of “schools” of thought implies multiple theoretical paradigms and no attempt at consensus. This was a correct description of economics mid-20th century, but not anymore.

          • niav

            Well for starters that doesn’t make economic “schools” irrelevant. Even if one adopts paradigms from a variety of schools, which is sometimes the case. Economists still can, and do, talk about the business cycle, and that to me makes the Austrian school still relevant.

            As for the consensus, it’s a non-starter as far as I’m concerned. Given what economics is (mostly post-facto justifications), it would be definitely strange if it economics would converge, and I definitely don’t see it as converging, unless you think that Krugman agreeing with Piketty counts. I for one don’t even regard Krugman as an economist. Not anymore.

          • Libertymike

            You err by assuming that the universe of “economics” is cabined by the “economics profession”. Broaden thy horizons.

          • Kurt H

            Should I also broaden my horizons and consider the works of Creation “scientists”? No, that would be stupid.

          • genemarsh

            That was beautiful to watch.
            Thank you Kurt and Reason60.

    • Welp, I guess we can all go home now if no one who’s not got it yet is bound to get it. You go first. Imma hang out here for a while. I think there might be something to this tacit knowledge/inadequate articulation thing.

    • TracyW

      A couple of points:
      Firstly, most white men aren’t libertarians either.

      Secondly, if I can’t figure out what’s going on and need an argument specially tailored to me, why should I be embarrassed about that? I need help, so, that’s life. Do you expect me to be embarrassed about wearing glasses too? If a friend of yours was in an accident and needed a wheelchair afterwards, would you tell me to be embarrassed about that?

      • Sean II

        I upvoted you for that first point. NOT the second.

    • Daniel Fallon

      Your comments suggest that the problem isn’t libertarianism but libertarians. What do you think racialism does as a selling point? Libertarianism may have built in ways of managing pseudo-science (or faulty beliefs in general) and its ideological consequences. But what person of color, woman, or gay wants anything to do with e.g. Hans Hoppe and friends, like you and Stephan Kinsella, that say to them: “Libertarianism is the best– even for you inherently inferior beasts.” And then, when confronted dynamically on those assertions of inferiority, you resort to facebook blocking, ridicule, and attempts at humiliation. It’s a double whammy. You are unwilling to defend libertarianism or your racism– to those you are claiming that Steve Horwitz is engaging in ‘soft bigotry’ to through tailoring. Who is the bigot here, again?

  • pj

    Well said, shared, thankyou.

  • pj

    On a general level, I think it, (libertarianism) is a slow idea: As Steve made the comment regarding the changes he has seen, it’s happening. I’ll (also) keep on sharing, introducing, giving information about and discussing libertarianism best I can.

  • Robert

    The author is talking past the critique a little, I think.

    People do not necessarily believe the things they believe for rational reasons. Rational reasons may not be the reason some or most men identify as libertarians, even if such reasons exist. Rather, they may be attracted to the ideology for irrational reasons (such as the ones the author dismisses as “absurd, of course.”) Women may be less subject to some of those irrational attractions, and so less attracted to libertarianism as a group.

    You can’t really refute a sociological observation (women are underrepresented among libertarians) or a proposed explanation (women are less attracted to a power fantasy that is an element of libertarians’ appeal to men) with a philosophical rebuttal (laws protecting women from discrimination hurt women! Laws that prevent women and children from starving or going without healthcare are anti-businesswoman!) The latter may or may not be true, but they aren’t relevant.

    • CJColucci


      • Libertymike

        No, not exactly.
        First, the sociological observation may be flawed, or worse, false, as a matter of fact, and a philosophical rebuttal may help to explain why the sociological observation is flawed or false.
        Second, a proposed explanation for some sociological observation, whether the sociological observation is true or not, is certainly ripe for a philosophical rebuttal where the proposed explanation contains factual flaws and / or irrational assumptions or is poorly ratiocinated. The philosophical rebuttal may be helpful in explaining why the proposed explanation is flawed and it may help to educate those favoring the flawed proposed explanation.

        • CJColucci

          So if libertarianism is true, then the sociological reasons for its unpopularity are false?

          • Libertymike

            Why inject a false premise and misread of my post in your interrogatory?

          • CJColucci

            The only “premise” in my question is “libertarianism is true.” I doubt you reject that. As for any “misread” of your post, I won’t take the blame for that. I tried very hard to understand it, as a native speaker of English who spends a lot of my working life deciphering difficult texts, and failed. Maybe you can try again.

  • Jim Dow

    It’s not just that Libertarians are not getting enough women or minorities, they’re not even getting a majority of educated white males. For example, people like me. Personally, I find the abstract debates here interesting which is why I hang around, but I could see how the tone of people like GTFO could drive people away. Even if you think other people are stupid, what use is it to call them that?

    I take SeanII’s argument to be an empirical one, that most everyone who is anti-libertarian can never be convinced, and maybe that’s true, although I doubt it. I was a Libertarian and I’m not any more, so at least there’s one example of someone whose political beliefs have changed. But I can see the argument that if most people are firmly set in their ways, it makes more sense to mock them than try to change their minds (and I’m not trying to be snarky, most of discussion about political matters are about entertainment rather than trying to change the world and that’s OK)

    • TracyW

      But I can see the argument that if most people are firmly set in their ways, it makes more sense to mock them than try to change their minds

      As a counter-argument against that attitude, I give you the UK 2015 election results. The left-wing has spent ages mocking and attacking the Conservatives, and UKIP, who then won the majority of the vote.
      Although admittedly the left-wing did spend a lot of effort calling people evil, not just stupid.

    • IllyC

      If libertarians could poll others who left, that would be helpful. I also suspect the tone of people like GTFO drives people away. It’s just phony and boring.How long can that approach prop anyone’s ego up? I bet most of the young women becoming libertarians will leave, given the new focus on women’s issues by libertarians. The downside of identifying yourself with some school of thought is that its representatives
      then speak for you and you have to attend to what they are saying—with the focus on cultural critiques and especially the focus on rape (is that at Reason?), I don’t know any women or men, myself, who would want to be associated with whatever “libertarian” view is made about those. They aren’t predictable views. They aren’t (as someone above said) good or scholarly. The motivations for them are hard to figure. So are people stupid to not want to be associated with views they don’t hold? And with people whose egos and peculiar “world views” are involved in what could be the sober and free consideration of ideas? It is hard to see the benefit. (And I am sure if you don’t feel part of a group, you pay less attention to the shared ideas you might have if you did– so I am guessing keeping people away hurts any libertarian movement.)

      • Libertymike

        How is GTFO’s tone “phony and boring”?

    • Libertymike

      Why aren’t you a libertarian any more?

      • Jim Dow

        Probably a number of reasons. But basically an increase in empathy for people who are less fortunate (which is why I find this blog interesting) combined with increased skepticism that the rules/structures that libertarians offer as substitutes for what we have now would work as advertised.

        • Libertymike

          Do you think people who are less fortunate than you are better off having more government regulation of life or less?
          Do you think people who are less fortunate than you should have fewer, as opposed to more, barriers to entering various occupations and trades? For example, should a woman who loves braiding, be forced to attend a cosmetology school which does not teach braiding, in order to be eligible to take a licensing exam that does not address braiding, so that the woman can legally ply her trade?
          Why do you think that progressives / statists are far less generous than libertarians? How does this square with your notions of empathy?

          • CJColucci

            Do you think people who are less fortunate than you are better off having more government regulation of life or less?

            Whatever Jim Dow’s answer may be, the problem for libertarianism is that the vast majority of people will give an answer you won’t like — either “more,” or “depends on what it is,” since not many people outside of the cosmetology establishment actually support requiring braiders to have full-fledged cosmetology licenses. The question is why that is and “But we’re RIGHT, Goddammit!” doesn’t answer the question.

          • Libertymike

            The answer is what drives more and more people into the “less” camp.

          • CJColucci


          • Jim Dow

            Better off with more regulation, for sure. I said I wasn’t a libertarian. More seriously, it depends on the kind of regulation we’re talking about. I’m for higher capital requirements on banks but against regulations on requiring school for braiding. But in my mind, the former is orders of magnitude more important than the latter. It seems odd that libertarians seem to put so much weight on fairly trivial forms of occupational licensing. There have to be better examples.

            As for donations, I haven’t seen the study so I can’t comment. But for things I care about, such as universal health care and social security, the libertarian attitudes mostly seem to fall into two camps, either it will be replaced by charity and so people will not be better off (which I personally don’t think will happen) or it’s their own fault for not earning/saving enough (which is the lack of empathy). There are certainly other views as well but there are a lot of libertarians in the “you deserve what you get” camp.

          • Sean II

            “It seems odd that libertarians seem to put so much weight on fairly trivial forms of occupational licensing. There have to be better examples.”

            What kind of libertarian were you, that you don’t know most of us are in favor of abolishing all occupational licensing.

            May I suggest a rule of thumb: if you meet someone who is willing to let braiders be braiders, but who thinks the USMLE was etched out by the flaming finger of god, that person is probably not a libertarian.

          • Jim Dow

            Oh, sure. And back when I was a libertarian I was too. But it seems like whenever the issue comes up about what policies libertarians recommend, cosmetology licensing is what gets trotted out, and that just seems too small to matter. There’s a tendency for libertarians to argue that it’s obvious that regulations hurt people, and if you’re going to take that approach then you need something that is obvious and big. USMLE is big but less obvious, which is why it gets much less mention. I’m not sure there’s something in the middle, but IMO if you’re going to try to persuade people, those are they examples you need.

          • Libertymike

            Above, I just gave you another.
            How about private automobile transportation? Why should one who is ambitious, courteous, and conversant with the culture and history of a given metropolis be forced to purchase a taxi medallion in order to own and operate a business providing auto transportation?
            Suppose this young ambitious entrepreneur grew up poor and in the hood and has graduated with an associate’s degree and wants to provide an outstanding service and make money?
            Is this person better off being more regulated?
            I don’t think he would regard his situation as trivial. He might not think much of your “empathy” – the type of “empathy” that insists that he should be forced to fork over a couple hundred thousand dollars just to be legally able to get in the game.

          • reason60

            This reminds me of one of the criticisms of liberals- that we advocate on behalf of people who aren’t in the room, who we haven’t spoken with, and whose voice is absent.

            Is anyone here a mortician, cosmetologist, tax driver?
            I actually know a mortician and a taxi driver. Neither one has ever griped about their licensing requirements, and as an architect I can state that none of us do either.
            Does anyone here really believe that if you got a bunch of poor black women who braid hair together and asked them to list their top political and economic concerns, would “licensure” even break the top 20?

            Hell I don’t know since I’m not female black or poor. Which is why I am careful not to speak on their behalf unless I’m quoting something written by one.

            I remember being very surprised when I heard the complaints of the black people in Ferguson. The predatory policing they complained about was invisible to me- if I had been talking about ways to help the poor black community, fees and fines for petty offenses never would have crossed my mind.

            Given Sean’s comment that all True Libertarians are opposed to all forms of licenses, the preoccupation of libertarians with barbers licenses, morticians licenses, and tax medallions seems less like a plea for someone else’s behalf than an ideological fixation.

          • Libertymike

            How conversant are you with the IJ and the facts of the cases they have litigated all across the American Soyuz? If you are, then you know that there are real people for whom the IJ has advocated.
            I can’t expect you to know that I have represented daycare operators who are prisoners of licensure and have argued that the licensing regime, itself, is antithetical to a free and civilized society and First Principles and that continuing education requirements for daycare operators are arbitrary and capricious. I can’t expect you to know that in one case, ALL of the daycare owner’s clients submitted affidavits in support of my client’s motion to invalidate certain regulations that had been issued by the state licensing board. The parents knew that compliance with the regulations meant a higher cost for them.
            I have an architect friend / client who RAILS AGAINST the licensing of architects. He thinks that I am too timid of an anarchist.
            During my last year at law school, I drove a cab. I encountered many drivers who agreed with me that there should not be any licensing of cab drivers and no barriers to entry. Many of the drivers were Kenyans and Russians.
            Of course, the owner of the company for whom I leased a cab favored the medallion / monopoly / restraint of trade model.
            As for Ferguson, how could you be unaware of the type of policing being conducted throughout much of the country? Do you not read William Norman Grigg? Randy Balko?
            At any rate, if you don’t think I thought that, just check the posts for the third week of August here or ask Sean II.

          • reason60

            Radly Balko does terrific work documenting the overpolicing of our society, and I am aware of his work.
            My point was that if you ask poor people what they really want, you won’t get answers that fit neatly into Democratic/ Republican/ Libertarian platforms.

            For instance, if you ask a poor person if they would prefer not to get a license, sure they will agree; but then they might go on to favor a higher minimum wage, or fewer restrictions on Section 8 housing, or maybe rent control and keep those damn [ethnic tribe I hate] outta my neighborhood.

            Why is it that we (political junkies) cherry pick our favorites then hold these people up as props in our fights?

          • Libertymike

            Sure, no argument on the crux of your second paragraph. There is no accounting for cognitive dissonance.
            Yes, cherries will be picked – but best do so while they are in season!

          • Sean II

            “At any rate, if you don’t think I thought that, just check the posts for the third week of August here or ask Sean II.”

            It’s true. LibertyMike pretty much was a Ferguson protestor last fall.

            Why he should brag about this now, I don’t know. But he’s not lying.

          • Jim Dow

            Reason60 said: “Does anyone here really believe that if you got a bunch of poor black women who braid hair together and asked them to list their top political and economic concerns, would “licensure” even break the top 20?”

            This is the better point. My medical licensing comment was a distraction, it’s the really big issues that are going to drive people in and out of libertarianism.

          • Libertymike

            How about the right to cultivate, grow, sell and use MJ? Is that a “really big issue”?
            Jim, I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they have been driven into the libertarian camp due to MJ. They ratiocinate that they are in a better position than the state or any progressive politician regarding their use of MJ. Many of them, though not all, reason that their friends and family are in a better position to make decisions regarding MJ than the state or some progressive SJW.

          • Jim Dow

            I live in California, so that I believe! So I’ll give you the eliminations of all those regulations if you give me university health care, social security and an increase in the progressivity of income taxes. Maybe we’re just talking definitions here, but for me libertarianism isn’t just reducing regulations, it’s a whole bundle of connected ideas. If it was primarily the regulation part then maybe I’d call myself a libertarian because I’m in favor of most of the changes on principle (even if I think they’ll have a small effect in practice – for example, I don’t think that the right to cash transactions or financial privacy will make much difference).

            I live in a very liberal city and I know Greens who are in favor of uber and MJ so I think these are winning issues on their own, but I’m not sure that “come for the MJ and stay for the elimination of the social safety net” will be as successful.

          • Libertymike

            You want “university” health care? No problem.

          • Sean II

            You are devastatingly right about two things:

            1) If you gathered together all of the black women braiders in America, opposition to licensing laws wouldn’t break their top 20 concern list, and indeed wouldn’t even be on the list. Black women aren’t libertarians. As a group they’re probably further from the libertarian movement than any segment in America except Bernie Sanders staffers. If anything, those braiders use the occasion to form some even more protectionist union or guild, or petition for a government subsidy of some kind.

            2) To the extent that any libertarians have been running around pretending that their main interest in freedom is to protect black women braiders, or to limit court costs for the downtrodden people of Ferguson, those libertarians are completely full of shit.

            Indeed, our own deepest beliefs about econ’ and public choice contradict such posturing nonsense. People don’t spend this kind of time and mental effort on pure altruism.

            So let me be the refreshingly honest one: We got into the movement because we thought it would make the world better, starting with us. The fact that we sincerely believe liberty would make the world better overall came later.

          • genemarsh

            I heard you walked out of the salon when Russell Means was referred to you by another client, Sean. You really are a creep.

          • Sean II

            Man, you’re determined to make that Russell Means joke work. You’ve shoe-horned it into two comments already.

            Problem is, the crowd you’re working is mostly too young for that one.

          • Libertymike

            Yeah, his AIM is off and it ain’t true.

          • Theresa Klein

            I actually know a mortician and a taxi driver. Neither one has ever griped about their licensing requirements, and as an architect I can state that none of us do either.
            Um. You don’t gripe because you HAVE the licenses. The people griping would be the ones that don’t.
            Ask your taxi-driver friend what he/she thinks of Uber.

          • Sean II

            You seriously don’t know?

            The reason why libertarians talk about braiders* so much is that they’re afraid to talk about doctors. We know most people will recoil in horror if you start talking about unlicensed pediatricians, so we pick a simpler profession where the license raj seems more obviously egregious.

            It’s a bit of selective emphasis for the purpose of persuasion. We’re peddling the gateway drug version of occupational licensing reform.

            Just as…when it comes to literal drugs, most of us are afraid to come out loud and proud for legalized cocaine, but we won’t shut up about da’ ganja.

            * Icing on the cake: braiders are almost always black women, and libertarians quite hilariously believe that advocating for their occupational freedom will somehow win us points with white progressives. Ha!

          • genemarsh

            Is the II for your two pigtails, Sean? Always wondered.

          • genemarsh

            Jesus Christ, Sean. You’re like Stossel in cornrows.
            Enough with the braiding bullshit and even worse, the pretend compassion for unskilled workers. You switch between revealing and concealing your hatred for both constituencies every other comment.

          • Libertymike

            What about a poor young person in Tennessee who aspires to make and sell a better casket than what is available on the market but legally cannot because the state has granted a monopoly to funeral directors forbidding all others from doing so?
            You may think that is trivial as well. The braider and the aspiring casket maker and seller might appreciate your brand of “empathy”.

          • Jim Dow

            I think that poor young casket maker should be free to make caskets! There are a lot of ridiculous licensing laws and the vast majority of people in this country would be against them. We’re on the same side on this one. By trivial, I mean policies that don’t move welfare very much when taking everyone into account. It’s not that you shouldn’t care about policies that only make small improvements, but what really matters is the big stuff.

            Why libertarians are distinct from other groups is the belief that you shouldn’t have required government licensing for anesthetists, surgeons and the like. That has the potential to really change things (for good or bad).

            But this isn’t about persuading me to be a libertarian, it’s about how libertarianism is marketed. I think it’s a tricky thing. In this case, caskets and and braiding isn’t going to do it, because it’s too easy to say “fine, we’ll do that, but let’s do more income redistribution at the same time”. On the other hand, not licensing doctors is more provocative than it needs to be.

          • Theresa Klein

            I think you are vastly underestimating the number of people who are negatively impacted by occupational licensing regimes. If you put all of these things together, including medicine and law, we’re really talking about vast sectors of the economy that are shut off from people at all skill levels if they don’t have the resources to get the required licenses.
            Also, occupational licensing for low-skilled occupations like braiding are major barriers to poor people being able to self-employ. Preventing the poor from self-employing is a major problem both from a moral and pragmatic standpoint.
            To me, it’s a moral issue, because I empathize with the plight of someone who want’s to pursue a dream, but is facing arbitrary legal obstacles to doing it. It’s also a pregmatic issues because it makes the poor fatalistic. If you literally can’t help yourself outside of taking a minimum wage job at McDonalds, what is your outlook on life going to be like? There are probably millions of poor people who have experienced some episode in which they tried to start an unlicensed business and got smacked down for it. Just for example, Eric Gardner DIED for selling untaxed cigarettes. There’s millions more who get smacked with fines and penalties for things like setting up a food cart without permission, and yes braiding har without a license.
            This isn’t “trivial” in a larger context at all.

          • genemarsh

            There is nothing more transparently phony than libertarians shedding crocodile tears over minimum braids policy.

          • genemarsh

            “What about a poor young person in Tennessee who aspires to make and sell a better casket than what is available on the market but legally cannot…”

            Sounds like you’re giving a State of the Unionbusters Address, Mike.

        • Jim Dow

          Screwed up the nesting

  • TracyW

    I’m rather doubtful about the idea that there aren’t many women in libertarianism for the same reason that Scott Alexander is doubtful about this in rationalism: the Catholic church is full of women despite the Catholic church being generally opposed to the kind of laws you discuss.


    Michael Barnett
    December 2, 2013 · Palermo ·

    I’ve been reading a lot of commentary about why there are so few women in the “liberty movement”. A lot of the analysis says that women are turned off not by the ideas of liberty, but by the attitudes of the men associated with the “liberty movement”. That is, that these men tend to be sexist, not politically correct, gun nuts and general contrarians.

    Now, I agree that many such men do populate the liberty movement and I concede that they have probably chased more than a few women off. But the idea that the liberty movement is a male stronghold because of that is utterly ridiculous, and in fact, I think, dishonest.

    According to Wikipedia, there are 103,129,321 women over the age of 15 in the United States. In the last election 1,275,821 people voted for the libertarian candidate. Now let’s say that only 5% of all libertarians actually vote. That would mean there are approximately 25,516,420 libertarians in the United States. Let’s say that racist, sexist, homophobic, neoconfederate bigots and assholes chased off so many women that of those 25,516,420 libertarians, only 25% are female (being generous here). That means there would be about 6,379,105 libertarian females. Now, let’s adjust for the voting age being 18 and guess that there are a bunch of really elderly women and senile women and such in that original 103,129,321 number above and make it 100,000,000 even. We are now estimating that 6.3% of women over the age of 18 in the United States are libertarian.

    If you think you can blame that on the racism, sexism, homophobia, neoconfederatism of the bigots and assholes who make up some of the liberty movement, you are, literally, insane. This is not an issue of women being repulsed by individuals. This is an issue of women being repulsed by ideas. Women, in general, want security and safety and nanny-statism and view the government as a parent, not as a problem.

    Ask yourself how the liberty movement became a man’s club in the first place. How come it wasn’t a woman’s movement like, say, feminism? Why aren’t libertarians almost exclusively female with a handful of males trying to bust into that girl’s club? Because women are not natural libertarians. They are natural authoritarians. It’s biological and it makes sense, honestly. But it is what it is. If every single libertarian male were as nice as could be and politically correct and such, there’d be maybe an extra 5000 or 10,000 libertarian women, AT MOST. Not even enough to make a statistical blip as far as the percentages go. Women are not generally receptive to libertarian ideas.

    Tell me I’m wrong.

    • Kurt H

      You’re wrong, and the high visibility of libertarians like yourself is the number one reason for the image problem. (Well, that and the fact that a lot of libertarians who disagree with folks like you fail to state their disagreement publicly.)

      • niav

        At least he provides a plausible, even if perhaps incorrect explanation. You provide essentially nothing except the highly dubious idea that libertarians have an image problem because they pick on women.

        • Kurt H

          Do you seriously think that a political movement full of people who claim that women are inherently too stupid or authoritarian to support liberty is going to draw in large numbers of women? Of course not. Now, it’s probably too hard of a struggle to get GTFO to change his mind. It is not too difficult for other libertarians to call him out.

          Also, I would like to point out that GTFO was “smart” enough not to make the same argument about black people that he did about women. If he made the argument that black people aren’t libertarian because of an inherently servile nature, how would you react?

          • niav

            You lost me at “full of people who claim that women…”. I’ve been reading libertarian websites for a long time and this is the first time I saw the argument.

            And on the other side, if his argument is at least partially correct and women aren’t drawn to libertarianism because they indeed are more “authoritarian” (charitable translation: more prone to value collectivist modes of organizing societies, since they value safety and predictability more than males, for obvious reasons), then really there’s nothing the libertarian movement can do about that.

            Are you saying they shouldn’t even point it out, because it offends some sensibilities?

            I think there’s a lot of value in determining why women aren’t attracted to libertarianism and I don’t think it’s an image problem.

            For example, it would imply that the best way forward is not necessarily to manicure libertarianism so it looks palatable to people who are naturally indisposed or hostile towards it, but to see which select ideas can be pushed successfully into the public agenda, and what’s the best strategy for doing so.

          • Kurt H

            If the 80% of human beings who are not straight, white males are “naturally indisposed or hostile” to libertarianism, then libertarianism cannot make the claim to being a universal worldview. Clearly, such an ideology would not be in the best interests of humanity as a whole.

          • niav

            Far from me to suggest that libertarianism is a universal worldview, or that it’s in the best interests of humanity as a whole – by my understanding all (or the vast majority of) the humans. It may (arguably) produce most economic growth and most technological progress, but that’s something else.

            I actually explained in an earlier comment that it’s not. A lot of people have a vested interest in living off the others. Elites have a strong interest in state control. Elites have supported fascism, nazism, socialism, communism, every kind of state planning there is.

            I don’t subscribe at all to the idea that people who don’t subscribe to libertarianism are evil or stupid. They have a variety of very real, sensible, self-interested motives for not being libertarians.

          • Libertymike

            Those motives may be real and sensible to the extent that they are tied to self-interest; nevertheless, it does not thereby mean that such people are not evil or not as good as people who do not want built-in gravy trains for the politically connected.

          • zic

            I actually explained in an earlier comment that it’s not. A lot of people have a vested interest in living off the others.

            Yup. Women are moochers.

            I cannot wait for the day when humanity has to stop rent-seeking and mooching off our wombs to have a future; when you need to pay us to bother to have the next generation.

          • niav

            I think you have a comprehension problem, or else you replied to me for no good reason. I never said that women are moochers, and the rest is a non-sequitur.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            you cannot conflate arguments about race and sex because, well, they are entirely two fucking different things.

          • Kurt H

            Regardless of whether race and sex are different, it is odd that GTFO is unwilling to offer a theory regarding black reticence toward libertarianism. Any argument that outreach cannot work must be based on innate differences. And if you believe libertarianism to be correct and a superior mode of social organization, than these differences are, by necessity, defects.

            GTFO has committed himself to the idea that women and non-whites are inherently deficient in their capacity to understand and support liberty. In his world, they are inferior beings who just don’t get libertarianism.

          • Les Kyle Nearhood

            your premise is wrong. there are no innate reasons, there are reasons tied to culture, tradition, education, lack of or miseducation, and the demonization of free market ideas among certain groups.

          • Kurt H

            GTFO specifically linked the gender gap to biology, and that is what is being responded to. Now if these gaps are not due to innate differences, then outreach should be a viable strategy.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Kurt H, are you willing to concede that there are biological differences between men and women? If you’re not, we’re at an impasse. If you are, then we can begin a dialogue on what those might be and what the effects of those might be.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            Not inferior. See? You can’t argue honestly. They simply have what they perceive to be as a vested interest in the state.

          • genemarsh

            Lestopia won’t need a woman. Just an isolated barn, an artificial womb and a dicksucking machine..

        • zic

          My word. GTFOofNOLA said,

          Women, in general, want security and safety and nanny-statism and view the government as a parent, not as a problem.


          Ask yourself how the liberty movement became a man’s club in the first place. How come it wasn’t a woman’s movement like, say, feminism? Why aren’t libertarians almost exclusively female with a handful of males trying to bust into that girl’s club? Because women are not natural libertarians. They are natural authoritarians. It’s biological and it makes sense, honestly. But it is what it is.

          I really feel welcomed to the party after reading that crap; so yeah, libertarians have an image problem because (in part) they pick on women, and pointing that out is not nothing. The MRA wing of the libertarian is his ‘movement,’ and yes, it creates a problem attracting all sorts of people, some of whom are women.

          • niav

            If you don’t feel welcome to the party, why don’t you organize your own?

            It’s a genuine question. I don’t think the libertarian movement has an image problem with women in the sense that they pick on women. GTFOofNOLA is not the libertarian movement.

            But his question is valid. If you are a libertarian but you feel that the libertarian movement doesn’t welcome you – because they are chauvinistic pigs – why don’t you make or join a women-friendly libertarian movement?

          • zic

            You obviously mean social party, where one hangs out, and not political party.

            Feminism is libertarian.

          • niav

            Accepting at face value feminism as a movement to promote women’s rights and gender equality doesn’t make it to me libertarian. It’s liberal (in the good “classical” sense), but has a too narrow focus to be libertarian.

            I am afraid though that today’s feminist movement(s) are about different things, like privilege-seeking, male-hating and other decidedly unsavoury and un-libertarian issues.

          • zic

            It’s interesting that GTFOofNOLA is not representative of Libertarians but all today’s feminists are privilege seeking, male hating, and other unsavory and un-libertarian. (There’s no ‘u’ in savory.) Do you understand how biased that view is? He’s not representative of your tribe, but all mine are unsavory and un-libertarian. You’re allowed nuance, but feminists are all the same.

            As to the ‘too narrow focus to be libertarian,’ my grandmother didn’t have the right to vote; my mother didn’t have access or legal right to contraception, and my daughter (a transgender woman) doesn’t have right to use the women’s restroom in many places. Those are issues of basic liberty. If the liberty of half the population is too narrow a focus for libertarians, it’s not surprising that the result is posts like this decrying the lack of women in libertarian movements.

            Notice: there’s not one policy suggestion; not a single idea in this post; just a, “how come they don’t see the pretty bauble?”

            It would seriously do you good to think of children and reproduction as a market; and women as able to not participate in that market or able to set their own rules about who and how they contract before participating. It resolves a lot of your unsavory perspectives.

          • thewinevagabond

            Very well said.

          • CT_22

            I don’t think many libertarians would argue that women shouldn’t be able to control their own bodies. But you must admit that most feminists today are decidedly unlibertarian (i.e. statist left). It’s easy to see why most libertarians would (while agreeing with a few aspects) find their politics unsavoury (yes other than Americans, the rest of the world spells it with an ‘u’).

          • niav

            There’s a ‘u’ in the British spelling, with which I’m more familiar, having lived in the UK. But to make you feel better I’ll stipulate that my spelling and grammar could be better; I’m not a native English speaker.

            As to your grandmother etc. – all those battles have been won. And rightfully so. For transgender people, perhaps we should have more bathroom types. I don’t see how you could reconcile all points of view. Somehow though I doubt that males have problems with transgender women-who-became-males, it’s probably the other way around, in which case I am really not sure how’s the “patriarchy” at fault.

            I cannot recall a single current-day feminist issue that I don’t feel is unjust in some way. From the witch-hunts on campuses harbouring some unseen “rape culture” and disgusting media reports full of lies, to mandatory hiring/admission quotas (which is unjust to the more qualified candidates), to nebulous “same pay for same work” cries (how do you measure “same work”, never mind between men and women, but people in general?), to things like: male-only golf courses bad, women-only gyms good.

            You accuse me of not being nuanced, but please note, I never said “all”. It’s entirely possible that some feminist issues today are worthy of consideration. I’m just not aware of any of them. The ones I am aware of are not libertarian for sure.

            Final thing: GTFOofNOLA is not in “my tribe”. I’m not very tribal at all.

          • genemarsh

            Sean, you sure you don’t want to rescind your invite? Niav looks to be all thumbs with the ladies. Add GTFO. Les, and Martin and youre going to be shoveling a lot of coal to power all four steam powered sausage suckers. You could share but that wouldnt be rugged or individualy

          • Kurt H

            Why is it that zic has to go found her own libertarian group? Why not tell people like GTFO to, er, GTFO? Why are sexist douchebags in the club by default?

          • niav

            There’s no “club” per se, so the question doesn’t make sense. In spontaneous communities – for example us commenting on this blog post (which is not the same as the “libertarian movement”, if such a thing can be precisely defined) – you can get all sorts of people. How do you propose to kick them out? Have “zic” moderate and ban them?

            The point is not that “zic” herself goes and forms her own libertarian group, but if, as she claims, more women are libertarian, they agree with libertarian ideas but they’re pushed away from the libertarian movement that GTFO belongs to because sexism and douchebaggery, why aren’t women spontaneously setting up libertarian movements where the likes of GTFO and his ideas aren’t tolerated?

            After all, women have no trouble whatsoever banding together and aggressively pushing their agendas, be that for maternity-employment privileges, privilege of association, privilege of employment and enrolment, privilege of pay, privileges to criminalise or punish sexual-related male behaviour they disagree with etc. – if you notice, none of these topics are libertarian.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            You think women reject messages solely on their perceptions of the messenger without critically evaluate the message, and you call me the sexist? You left-wingers are so unaware of your own innate biases.

          • GTFOofNOLA

            OK, Zic, so I’m a fucking prick who’s a misogynist, racist, homophobic, bigot or whatever and is very mean and off-putting. So this means you reject libertarianism, right?

    • martinbrock

      Many, even most, men and women see the state as a parent, I doubt that this perception much distinguishes women from men. I doubt that women see the state as their parent more than men, but they often seem themselves more as parents, and they see the state as a co-parent substituting for a man. Statesmen also like playing this role.

  • Jod

    If you want to see why women and feminist men are turned off by libertarianism, this comment thread does a good job of illustrating the type of person one often meets with in the libertarian world. That one guy below is clearly working out some mother issues…

    • urstoff

      Shich is basically an argument that political beliefs are based off of emotions and group identity than any sort of process of rational inquiry…which is probably right.

  • Christopher Ritchie

    The interesting things to me about these arguments is they start so specific; Why are fewer women than men supporting Ron Paul. They than branch out into broader purposes with less evidence; Why is libertarianism supported more by Men than by Women. And inevitably you end up with people discussing some abstract biological determinist nonsense, when you started with a pretty clear question about a specific candidate, in a specific place, in a specific contest that may have had pretty simple sociological reasons. Who gets to vote in US Primaries? Republicans yes, unless they are open Primaries? Is the Republican party weighted in regards to Gender? Is electoral participation in General in the US? What sort of women vote in Republican primaries to begin with?

    Others down thread have addressed pretty well the broader theoretical issues of the ‘Libertarian’ movement. That any thread discussing any sort of issue surrounding Women(or for that matter ethnic minorities) inevitably descends into biological determinism and hostility to members of the group in question is very telling. I mean this is the internet, but this happens even on a blog that supposedly is devoted to the marriage of libertarian thought and social justice?

    If I wanted to make a broad observation it would be that Libertarians have a tendency to treat the state as the principal source of oppression when historically, for women, other social institutions that Libertarians often hold up as replacements for apparatus of the state have instead served as mechanisms of oppression; the Family, The Church, Civic society.

    If I wanted to be really trite I’d just say that practical reasons mean women are less likely than men to be deluded into thing liberty is the only political good.

    • niav

      I don’t think this explanation works.

      If you look at nearly every instance of systematic oppression, the state has a hand in it.

      And libertarianism, by definition, is about giving the individuals freedom and responsibility – as opposed to collectivism. The State, The Church, Civic society, are forms of collectivism.

      If anything, oppressed segments should have an extra incentive to embrace libertarianism.

      I don’t think that most libertarians and libertarian-leaning folks (today’s classical liberals) “delude” themselves into thinking that liberty is the only political good. It seems to me that, absent strong justifications against it, that they lean towards the idea that more liberty is generally preferable to less liberty, as both something moral and conducive of good outcomes – and this applies to most area in life, ranging from markets, regulations, health care, marriage etc.

      • Farstrider

        “If you look at nearly every instance of systematic oppression, the state has a hand in it.”

        Of course if you look at every liberty presently enjoyed, the state also has a hand in that. The state is a neutral tool. It can be misused to repress freedom or it can be used to foster it. But there is no freedom in the absence of the state.

        • niav

          I don’t think so. Even more, I think it’s nonsensical to say that our rights and freedoms come from the state.

          • Farstrider

            It’s nonsensical to say you’d have any rights and freedoms outside the state. Rights are created by governments; they cannot be found in nature.

          • niav


            As famously written: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

            The government can help secure or infringe on these rights, but they don’t come from the government.

          • Farstrider

            I am not drawing a distinction between “helping to secure” those rights and being the source of those rights. I suppose you can, but you have to grapple with the fact that an unsecured right is just wishful thinking. Actual concrete rights, that you can enforce against others against their consent, require a state. This is obvious. The Declaration of Independence is a useless document without the Constitution to back it up.

          • niav

            To me the distinction is both glaring and essential.

            The rest of your reply is non-starter, since there’s no such thing as a “secure” right. The government might decree that murder is illegal and still unfortunately people get murdered.

            It doesn’t follow that the people who were victims of murder didn’t have the right to life. They did, but that right was infringed upon.

            Conversely, in societies where the government actively infringes people’s right to freedom, it doesn’t follow that people don’t have the right to freedom. It’s the very existence of the right to freedom that justifies and also makes people overthrow this type of governments.

            If Nadia Comaneci thought she had no right to freedom, as the socialist government of Romania held at the time as public policy, she wouldn’t had fled to the US. But she did have the right, and she acted on it. All Romanians had this right, and some years later they acted on it en masse.

            Similarly, I hold evident that my rights don’t come from any government.

            The only coupling between rights and governments are the so-called “positive” rights or “entitlements”, i.e. the government expropriating people, using an implicit threat of violence, to distribute the proceedings to others. Those aren’t, technically speaking, “secure” either, being subject to compliance, fluctuating policy and fiscal constraints.

          • reason60

            That’s the nice thing about fundamentalism that makes it so attractive, is its use of self-evident truths.

            Like how the divinity of Jesus or the right to healthcare is self evident and obvious, self evident rights are impervious to compromise, and those who deny them don’t really need to be tolerated.

            These truths are eternal, and exist separate and apart from our recognizing them, and humanity’s only proper response is to bend the knee to them.

          • niav

            You make fundamentalism sound good.

          • Farstrider

            Then you misunderstood.

          • Farstrider

            I took the term “secure” right – your term by the way, so its hardly my nonstarter – to mean a right that is enforceable and cannot be violated with impunity. If you can be murdered with impunity, then you have no right to life in any meaningful sense. Sure, you can claim an abstract “right to life,” and that your murderer violated that right. But in a state where the murder is neither prevented nor punished, this is inaccurate. What you really mean is that you wish the state created and enforced a right to life; you wish the government took steps to protect your life and punished those that hurt you.

            Consider your examples. Comaneci left Romania because she actually had limited rights there, and went somewhere – the US – where she had more rights. In other words, your example proves my point: the US created and enforced better rights than Romania, and Comaneci left because of that.

            I’ll just note, agreeing with reason60 below, that nothing in what I am saying requires me to believe in some sort of abstract truth that both transcends reality and cannot be found in reality. But that is a burden your position is requiring you to carry, and you aren’t doing it well. That’s nothing personal, however. No one has ever offered evidence of these transcendent (or sometimes “natural”) rights, because none can be found. This is because rights are human-invented constructs.

      • Christopher Ritchie

        I think it important to note two related, but very different things here; Libertarianism is both a collection of varying systems of political thought, but it is also how that political thought actually expresses itself. Part of my initial critique of this post is that far too often Libertarian discussions on these topics veer away from the specific and into the general. They miss the tree’s for the forest.

        You may see Libertarianism as being about freedom from all forms of collectivism, yet it doesn’t actually express itself like that. I see people rail against the state all the time. Occasionally against specific manifestations of ‘the church’. But against Civic Society? The family? A few more proper Anarchists perhaps, but largely libertarians hold these up as the entities that will replace state function. When some-one objects to the elimination of state education for example, what mechanisms do actual libertarians, or those claiming the banner actually propose? When Ron Paul advocated removing the federal board of eduction, what was the actual policy that would be implemented afterword. Whose liberty was that proposal advancing?

        I’ll address the two different fields in different ways; In terms of actual politics it can be readily observed that ‘libertarians’ in the US are vastly more willing to sacrifice personal and civic liberties than they are ‘economic’ liberties. That is they will support a candidate who supports anti-abortion laws and lower taxes over one who is opposes such laws and supports higher taxes. This has actual political consequences in how people perceive those political movements.

        In terms of my broader point regarding ‘oppression’ and the state. The state ‘has it’s hand’ in things yes, but it’s not the causal agents. It wasn’t kings and queens who determined that women were the functional property of their husbands in English law. It was a combination of religious and cultural factors outside the state that determined the shape of said state. A more specific current example is that it’s rarely the state these-days(with a few obvious outlaying exceptions) that attempts to keep girls out of school. The Quiverfull movement would probably enjoy state power, but it can operate and deprive members of liberty quite well without it. It’s not law that causes women to loose out on work opportunities to have children, but it can be the state that alleviates such.

        In my experience, and even within this thread, you have libertarians decrying as essentially evil people who dare to put forward the idea that liberty should be restricted to secure personal safety. Who advance liberty as some sort of essential good in of itself, as oppose to a mechanism to achieve other goods. That’s a prime failing of the political philosophy in my opinion and will cause people who view politics through practical lenses to reject it.

  • martinbrock

    I’ll discuss sexism apart from libertarian alternatives to state policies, because the two really are distinct.

    … I don’t really want to play amateur sociologist …

    Clearly, Drum has just (in the sentences immediately preceding this one) played amateur sociologist regarding men and libertarians, so he wishes not to play amateur sociologist only regarding women and non-libertarians.

    I’ll play amateur psychologist. Drum stereotypes a class of men (the Bad Guys) here, and he doesn’t want to stereotype women similarly, because insulting a class of women this way wouldn’t be “manly” in another stereotypical sense (the Good Guys) with which Drum himself identifies.

    … it seems unfair to blame markets for that when the state prevented married women from owning property or making contracts.

    “Market” describes conventions governing the exchange of property without presuming particular standards of propriety, so of course, “markets” are not “to blame” for property rights, but neither is “the state” to blame for standards of propriety whereby a husband is proprietor of his family’s resources. These standards were not constructed by “the state” any more (or less) than other standards.

    Husbands in the past were proprietors of family resources, because defending the resources from other claimants (“thieves”) was properly (according to the same standards) the responsiblity of husbands exclusively. Wives were not similar obliged, by these standards, to defend the resources. On the contrary, a husband leaving his wife to her own defenses was ignoble.

    A husband was even expected to defend his wife against the state itself, and he was thus subject to the state’s penalties for his wife’s crimes. He was also expected to defend his wife from the state’s enemies, so he could be called into the service of the state in war while she could not.

    Nowadays, we imagine the defense of property from other claimants to be the responsibility of the police (the state), but of course, only a few generations ago, the state could not possibly bear this responsibility, and everyone knew it. In a densely populated town, a person might expect a policeman to hear a call, but for most people, a state agent was never in earshot and might be called upon only through an extremely costly process, likely more costly than the value of any resources requiring a defense.

    In these circumstances (practically universal only a few generations ago), men and women jointly founding families divided responsibilities, and men took the lion’s share of responsibility for defending the family’s resources (its territory). No state necessarily forced women to accept this conventional division of labor, and men were not necessarily the greatest beneficiaries of it. The idea that men forced these conventions upon women to benefit themselves is both ahistorical and ridiculous on its face.

    … men used the power of the state to limit women’s hours and wages …

    Men generally never used the power of the state this way, because the overwhelming majority of men had no such power, while a few Queens and Ladies, along with a practically equal number of Kings and Lords, did.

    Of course, in the U.S., in the nineteenth century, we didn’t use labels like “King” and “Queen” or “Lord” and “Lady” for our politicians. Enough said about that. Nothing else changed very much.

  • martinbrock

    How to interest more women in libertarianism?

    First, we need to admit that common formulations of “libertarianism” utterly fail to account for the rights of children and corresponding obligations toward them.

    Second, we need to distinguish two paths to a freer society, political reform and community building or top down and bottom up. I generally favor the bottom up approach.

    [Some “libertarians” add a third path, political revolution, but I have few sympathies with them and will not discuss this alternative. These “libertarians” differ little from Marxists, who also claimed to seek a stateless social by revolutionary means. Revolutionary “libertarians” today are far more like Marxists than the “communists” opposing Marx in his day.]

    IMO, the reform path is hopeless in general and even more hopeless in terms of attracting women, because the state (definitively a truce among warring parties) has always been and remains today largely a battle between men for the loyalties of women, evolving out of battles for territorial dominance. Males battle males, and females favor the victors.

    This “socio-biological” description is highly reductionistic, and it’s as reductionistic in strictly biological terms as it is political terms. I remain a follower of Kropotkin to some extent, so I’m aware of the reductionism and its criticisms, in both the biological and political domains, but the description still seems meaningful to me and relevant to this discussion.

    Because established states evolved this way, and because reformers always advocate marginal changes in an established state, the reform path always proposes a marginal change in a system to which most women are already loyal. Most women will perceive a change as either benefitting them or not. The Equal Rights Amendment, for example, failed largely because conservative women opposed it. The amendment cleared a male dominated Congress and swept through male dominated state legislatures before rising opposition among conservative women ultimately defeated it.

    Most reforms that libertarians typically advocate will not benefit most women. It’s not just a matter of perception. On the margin, these reforms will not benefit most women. We can argue all day about the long term consequences, but for a particular woman receiving WIC benefits here and now, repealing WIC does not benefit her here and now. WIC does not exist because males impose it to subjegate women in maternal roles. It exists because women and self-appointed champions of women advocated it in the past and still support it today for the same reasons.

    To interest more women in libertarianism, we must emphasize that supporting pregnant and nursing women and their children, without any market exchange, is completely consistent with libertarianism and that free communities would provide this support, because a “free community” is not a community in which Rothbardian property rights, and only these rights, are obligatory. A free community is any community governed by consensus, regardless of the standards of propriety governing the community’s resources, and a community dedicating resources to pregnant and nursing women and their children, without any market exchange, is entirely “libertarian” as long as its members are not held against their will.

    We don’t need a state establishing single standard governing the rights of pregnant and nursing women and their children and imposing this standard on hundreds of millions of people across central North America, and if we carefully examine the devil in the details of this imposition, we’ll discover countless avenues for improvement effectively ruled out by the imposition.

    These avenues for improvement are what libertarians advocate, but we’ll never persuade (and should not persuade) many people of this fact with words alone. We must build these communities in reality. We must build communities more attractive to women than the state’s alternative, and the charters of these communities must emphasize the rights of pregnant and nursing women and their children as fundamentally as any other property right. Anyone who imagines attracting women to “libertarianism” otherwise is delusional.

    • niav

      “and a community dedicating resources to pregnant and nursing women and their children, without any market exchange, is entirely “libertarian””

      Well, if you mean families and employers doing it on a voluntary basis (to attract and retain staff), it’s entirely libertarian, as you say.

      It seems to me that women prefer much more heavy-handed measures though, such as direct transfers (financed by coercive taxation), subsidised services (child care, education etc – again, financed by coercive taxation), and substantial employment privileges (financed by the employer or through coercive taxation).

      In most (all?) Western Europe, if you’re an employer and a female employee comes to you saying she’s pregnant, you cannot fire her. You have to award maternity leave. You probably have to pay her salary while she isn’t working, at least for a while or partially. She may choose to take more leave, and you are obliged to agree. You have to give her old job back to her, or something similar. In the UK, you’re not even allowed to ask her if she’s coming back. Basically she unilaterally created a bunch of obligations that you’re obliged to comply with, and this is not very compatible with a libertarian framework.

      • martinbrock

        A community in which membership is voluntary and members may resign at will may require members to support all children within the community lacking other support, without violating any libertarian principle, and I expect most free communities to do so, for the same reason that I expect free communities to require members to respect certain individual property rights. Free people with a choice of communities will make these choices.

        Men and women alike prefer heavy-handed measures. The question is: how do those of us preferring freedom and choice persuade women to join us? We are a small minority of people in reality. We are predominately male, but if a similar number females join us, we are still a small minority.

        We are not about to control the United States or any similar state through the established political process. We already know what happens when an avowedly “libertarian” party approaches power in the United States. It becomes the Democratic or the Republican party. Expecting a different result is insanity.

        Of course, the men in our movement who would enforce a particular formulation of individual property rights everywhere and always, while insisting that nothing else is enforced, are not proper libertarians at all in my way of thinking. They are brutal (in Tucker’s sense) minarchists instead.

        … this is not very compatible with a libertarian framework.

        We can learn from the mistakes of established states, but complaining endlessly about statecraft gets us nowhere. Precisely how a community supports children is up to the community. Requiring employers to bear the costs you describe is questionable, but your objections only raise other questions, and free communities will address these questions or fail to attract women, just as a community discouraging entrepreneurship will fail to attract employers.

        • niav

          Blame it on my lack of imagination, but I just don’t see how any framework of property rights in which becoming pregnant or having a child automatically creates unilateral obligations on innocent* 3rd parties while at the same time diminishing their rights and property would be libertarian.

          (*) Innocent in the sense that they weren’t consulted, didn’t enter some voluntary arrangement and had nothing to do with the pregnancy or the children.

          • martinbrock

            I never consented to the property rights of other U.S. citizens either. I suppose I should consent to my respect for rights of this sort.

            Here’s one possible framework. You want to join a community like Fort Galt in Chile, so you can enjoy the resources shared by members of this community, enjoy the company of other members including respect for individual rights that they respect, work productively with them and so on.

            Fort Galt is a free community. Only your own choice requires you to accept the terms of membership, and you may resign your membership at will. If membership in this community requires you to contribute to the support of children within the community, then a framework of property rights in which becoming pregnant and having a child creates obligations on other parties.

            I don’t know all of the rules at Fort Galt, and the members don’t know them yet either, because the rules have yet to emerge. Possibly, laboring to create a resource, using commonly owned tools in the maker shop, creates an individual property right in the resource created, and respect for this property right is mandatory for members, even though some other rule could govern an individual’s creation of a resource with tools not individually owned. In fact, in “capitalist” enterprises, other rules almost invariably apply, but because members of Fort Galt lean toward individualist economists, I imagine this rule emerging.

            I also don’t know what rules, if any, govern the support of children at Fort Galt, but I do know that the community describes itself as a “supportive community for entrepreneurs and their families”.

            Twin Oaks is a a similar, intentional community in Virginia. It always had explicit rules governing the support of children belonging to the community and obligations of community members to contribute to this support.

          • niav

            While I agree that it is libertarian to tolerate other people to organize themselves in whatever manner they please, as long that doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights, I don’t think that you describe is libertarianism.

            The phrase “children belonging to the community” is a dead giveaway for me: only a communistic system, which to me is essentially un-libertarian, could have this kind of arrangement.

            On a more general note, I don’t see this tolerance and localism as being attractive to a lot of people and in particular women. If libertarians were to say: “look, in libertarianism you can create your own voluntary communities in which people are taxed to help raise your children” I can see the retort being too easy: right now, in virtually all of Europe/US, everybody is coercively taxed to help raise said children.

            The libertarian alternative is less, not more.

          • martinbrock

            The phrase “children belonging to the community” is a dead giveaway for me …

            If I say that I belong to a community (or a church or a marriage or a business partnership), am I also a communist?

            Saying that a minor child belongs to a community says something about the choices of the community’s adults, not about the choices of the child. Children don’t choose their community, because they haven’t reached the age of consent. Parents or guardians make choices on their behalf, including the choice of a community.

            Precisely how parents share responsibility for children with other community members is for the community to decide, but I don’t expect many parents freely to accept membership in a community that does not respect a privileged relationship between child and parent vs. other adults in the community. Twin Oaks (which you would likely call a “communist” community) recognizes this privileged relationship, and this recognition has evolved since the community’s inception.

            People are not “taxed” in a voluntary community. They pay membership dues or follow rules, like taking a turn in the kitchen. Is my membership in a life insurance pool communism?

          • niav

            If I say that I belong to a community (or a church or a marriage or a business partnership), am I also a communist?

            It depends. My original reply took into account that when you said children, as opposed to people in general, as belonging to the community, I implied shared responsibility for their welfare, as in, the existence of the so-called “positive rights”. Children need to be fed, clothed, housed, educated etc. By adults. So when reading “children belong to the community” I took it that the responsibility is on [all] the adult community members, as opposed to their respective parents.

            This is clearly not the same with adults, who can, and should, take care of themselves. Of course you can consider yourself a part of the community, but that doesn’t necessarily raise obligations on the others the same way as children do, at least not to me. I am part of the community here but I regard the issue as me having only the so-called “negative rights” versus my neighbours: as long as they don’t infringe on my person, freedom, property and pursuit of happiness, as far as I’m concerned they have no duties towards me. Everything else is “nice to have”, as opposed to “I’m going to pay people with guns and make them submit to doing X”, where X is some form of “gimme stuff”.

            Similarly, I don’t accept your point about property. Saying that you didn’t agree to the rules of property is to me like saying you didn’t agree not to murder people, or that you have an overwhelming urge to steal things that other people make.

            There are fringe examples, around certain types of intellectual property, natural resources, radio spectrum etc where more complex rules are necessary, but it doesn’t make it a free for all party.

            While you can theoretically have social arrangements in which people don’t accept the others’ rights to life, freedom or property, there’s something inherently barbaric and non-functional about that.

            In particular, societies that deny the right of property get horribly abusive and unproductive very quickly. There are plenty of examples in recent history, present day included. The fact that it works for a handful of people here and there (who might only do it for a while, kibbutz-style) doesn’t mean it works in general, and we know it doesn’t.

    • Theresa Klein

      I think most progress in the last few decades has really been in changing social attitudes about the sex roles of men and women.
      20 years ago it was considered controversial for a single woman to voluntarily become a mother. (Murphey Brown)
      Now, nobody bats an eyelash.
      Similarly, there are more and more men who are becoming stay-at-home dads, and going into careers like nursing.
      Balancing the needs of raising a family between both parents makes a huge difference in equalizing career opportunities for women. Many companies now offer parental leave for fathers as well as mothers. It’s increasingly common for men to stay home to care for sick children and to help out with housework.
      These are all largely sociocultural shifts that have taken place without government involvement. There is no need to advocate state supports for pregnant and nursing women. However, we should favor liberal social attitudes that equalize the duties of men and women within the family unit with respect to housework and childrearing. And equal policies for single parents, whether they be male or female. (While it’s not common, a single man could adopt a baby – and we should be equally supportive of his right to do that and have the same work considerations.)

      • martinbrock

        I’m not advocating state supports for pregnant and nursing women and their children. I’m only nothing that women value this support, whether or not a state provides it. Men also value it for the mothers of their children, and people generally value it for children generally.

        Of course, you could choose a community that holds parents exclusively responsible for all costs of raising children and expel parents who can’t raise their children while pulling their own weight within the community, but I expect few parents and children in this community given more supportive alternatives, and I expect more supportive alternatives to exist.

        We know what happens to communities attracting few parents, even effectively forbidding members to become parents, because these communities are historically precedented. Some communities of this sort, like monasteries, persist. Others like Shaker communities wither away.

        • Theresa Klein

          I think that women’s preference for state support for child-care might wither to some extent if expected responsibilities of fathers increased. Not just in terms for child support for single mothers, but if husbands took on equal duties in the home.

          I expect few parents and children in this community given more supportive alternatives, and I expect more supportive alternatives to exist.

          Why would they? Communities that are more “supportive” of childrearing effectively force childless people to subsidize those with children. What would likely happen is that systems with more overt support for child-rearing would tend to have all the childless people leave, leaving only couples with children. At which point the subsidization effect becomes moot, because everyone has kids.

          To a certain extent this already happens. Childless people concentrate in dense urban areas, and couples with kids live in suburbs. In some places, they even discriminate against people with kids and attempt to cultivate a community entirely of young professionals. Or elderly retirees.

          Meanwhile communities that provide playgrounds and schools already attract parents and children, and those places tend to be almost entirely composed of traditional nuclear families.

          This happens easily on the local level because people can easily move out of a neighborhood with high property taxes supporting lots of schools. It’s more difficult on the federal level with programs like WIC because childless people can’t opt out. But then that isn’t the voluntary “supportive” community you are talking about.

          Basically communities with lots of support for childrearing exist only as long as parents can force childless couples to participate in them. They aren’t stable at all at the local level, where childless people simply move away.

          • martinbrock

            I want fathers supporting their children, along with decent parental rights, but I don’t expect family members to share all duties equally. Husbands often work longer hours and earn more than their wives. I always have. Families may decide not to share housework equally either.

            But two people supporting a child, with whatever division of labor they choose, also value a supportive community. We’re all someone’s child, and most of us were supported for decades during the incredibly long and growing period of dependency that many children routinely expect, so I see no problem with returning something to my parents, or if they prefer, to parents more generally, particularly if I never support children myself. Most people feel the same way, and community standards reflect these sentiments, just as these standards reflect people’s desire for individual property rights.

            Why would they? Communities that are more “supportive” of childrearing effectively force childless people to subsidize those with children.

            No. Childless people may form communities without these obligations if they want, but their communities will attract few parents. I just don’t think these childless communities would be as attractive or productive as you might imagine, particularly since they must attract as members children raised in competing communities.

            What would likely happen is that systems with more overt support for child-rearing would tend to have all the childless people leave, leaving only couples with children.

            I don’t think that’s true, but if it’s true, that’s O.K. They can leave. My twin sister has no children while I have three. I can say with complete assurance that she would not leave a community in which she shares some responsibility for my children. In fact, I’m sure that she’d adopt my children if I couldn’t support them for some reason. [My children are grown now, but I’m sure she would have done so in the past.] I just think you’re woefully mistaken about how most people regard children, including most childless people.

            In some places, they even discriminate against people with kids and attempt to cultivate a community entirely of young professionals. Or elderly retirees.

            That’s all fine with me, but of course, I oppose practically all monopoly rents imposed on everyone, and people often don’t appreciate just how difficult retirement would be if they couldn’t impose these rents on children, their own children and other people’s children.

            This happens easily on the local level because people can easily move out of a neighborhood with high property taxes supporting lots of schools.

            Basically, these people are children refusing to repay the cost of their own education. Free communities have many avenues to discourage this outcome.

            What you’re saying is empirically falsifiable. Twin Oaks has existed for decades, and it attracts many childless young people, despite the fact that child rearing work is compensated like any other work.

  • Theresa Klein

    Hardcore libertarianism is a fantasy. It’s a fantasy where the strongest and most self-reliant folks end up at the top of the heap, and a fair number of men share the fantasy that they are these folks. They believe they’ve been held back by rules and regulations designed to help the weak, and in a libertarian culture their talents would be obvious and they’d naturally rise to positions of power and influence…Few women share this fantasy.

    I want to address this comment.

    First of all, calling this a “fantasy” is rather pejorative. Don’t we want a system where the best and brightest can rise to the top based on merit and hard work? To dismiss the whole concept of a society where self-reliant people can suceed based on their own effort seems to me like either question begging or patheticallly captiulating on the entire liberal project. Why are we even bothering with any of this if we don’t think it’s possible?

    Secondly, don’t we want people to beleive that self-reliance and hard work are virtues that will help them better their own lives? If men have this belief more than women do, I would call that a virtue of men and a failure of women. I would ask what is it society is teaching men and women differently that would cause women to NOT think they can succeed on their own initiative.

    If women don’t believe they can suceed as well as men without help, that is a problem that needs to be rectified. Likely, the reason lies in internalized traditional views of the role of women in society. For instance, there is a recurrent assumption in politics that to appeal to women voters, politicians have to talk about issues that are focused on traditional “women’s work” like education (teaching) and healthcare (nursing). Another example is the belief that women vote based on the male candidate’s sex appeal – witness the number of articles talking about Obama’s supposed good looks. Personally, I find both of those things insulting, but I do know many women who don’t pay much attention to politics and are easily influenced to adopt positions based on the social messages they are receiving about what they are “supposed” to care about.

    IMO, that is the real source of the disparity. Many women have been taught and are constantly receiving reinforcing messages about what they ought to think and believe based on their sex. The messages vary by background and community. Some might get the message that they should be stay at home moms and vote based on what’s good for children. Others might get the message that they should work and vote entirely based on reproductive health issues like abortion and contraception. But they both are steeped in a culture that tells them what they are supposed to believe. Just like the culture teaches men that they should be self-reliant and strive to suceed.

    The problem is not that men have some sort of delusional fantasy about success. It’s that our culture teaches men to have that vision and *doesn’t* teach it to women. Our culture is still teaching and expecting women to have smaller visions and to have lives that revolve around child-care and healthcare and other domestic concerns.

    But that is changing given the increasing academic success rates of women and increasing entrepreneurship rates. In a true feminist future, women would “fantasize” about rising to the top based on their own efforts just as often as men.

    • reason60

      There seems to be some assumptions here:

      In what way is a “system where the best and brightest can rise to the top based on merit and hard work?” incompatible with what we have right now?
      You also have a proposal for an alternate culture, remaking what exists into something that your moral intuition views as a correct ordering of things.
      Which is your prerogative, except you also appear to want to apply this widely, applying it over my city, my state, my nation.
      As I mentioned below, its this vision of humanity that I find preposterous and unbelievable.

  • martinbrock


    I don’t at all agree that adults should take care of themselves. Adults should do what they choose to do. If an adult chooses to be responsible for another adult or for a child, that’s none of my business.

    I do agree not to murder people, and I also agree to respect certain rights commonly called “property”. I do not agree to respect other rights, like software patents, called by the same name. I respect these rights only because men with guns threaten me. How about you?

    I don’t at all agree that objectionable “property” rights are on any fringe. These “exceptions” are overwhelmingly the rule in my neck of the woods (central North America), and we can discuss the issue in quantitative terms if you like.

    I object to Treasury securities for example, and the value of these securities rivals the total value of all shares of all of the S&P 500 companies. Shares of these 500 companies constitute 80% of the value of all shares of all publicly traded companies in the United States, and the S&P 500 includes companies like Lockheed-Martin.

    I also object to property in companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and these companies effectively own a huge proportional of residential real estate in the United States. I object to fiat money in federally insured bank accounts. We may be over half of the value of all property in the United States already, and I’m still well within the tip of the iceberg.

    Only you have suggested a free for all party, non-functional barbarism or horribly unproductive abuses. Needless to say, I deny advocating any such thing.

    Individuals have the rights that other individuals agree to respect. My wife has rights to my support, and I to hers, because we agree to be married. No one forces this marriage upon us. It is our choice.

    My wife and I have rights to a house, not only because we say we do but because our neighbors agree to respect these rights while we agree to respect rights of theirs.

    Within our house, some things belong exclusively to my wife, and other things are exclusively mine, but most things are ours. The boundaries between hers, mine and ours are our choice, not the choice of anyone outside of the marriage, ideally. Neither you nor John Locke nor Murray Rothbard nor anyone else outside of our marriage has any say over what is hers or mine or ours.

    A free community is a relationship like a marriage incorporating more than two people. Members of the community agree to respect certain rights of other members, possibly including what you call “positive” rights. I don’t distinguish positive rights from negative rights in this regard, because the distinction seems vague and arbitrary. Practically all individual rights are matters of voluntary respect.

    The only force I defend is 1) “force” that a member of a community agrees to endure upon violating the community’s standards, while s/he remains a member, and 2) force ensuring that the community remains free.

    Of course, in libertarian terms, the former is not “force” at all. A person voluntarily entering a drug rehab facility is not “forced” to abstain from the use of a drug even if the facility’s rules forbid any use of the drug and impose penalties on the person for violating these rules.

    Supporting the latter force makes me a minarchist rather than an anarchist, strictly speaking. A community is free in this sense only if it does not kill its members or hold them against their will, so in particular, any member may resign his membership at any time and leave the community owing it nothing and owed nothing by it (including respect for any property in resources governed by the community’s standards). A community’s right to punish a violation of its standards is limited to withdrawing respect for property in resources governed by the community’s standards.

    A community has no right to enforce anything outside of its boundaries, and a person is within these boundaries only by the person’s consent and only moment to moment, because self-ownership is an inalienable right. A person’s rights to anything outside of his body are alienable and require the consent of other persons expected to respect the rights.

    A community in which individual members own all resources by Rothbardian standards is free as long as it does not systematically kill members or hold them against their will or invade other communities to impose its standards upon non-members.

    • niav

      I think we’re either talking past each other, or that you keep moving the goal posts.

      • martinbrock

        I thought that I had addressed specific points of yours, like “… adults, who can, and should, take care of themselves …” and objections to common “property” are only “fringe examples”.

  • Seems like a good thing to discuss about this kind of issue that might not be a cleared thing for those people who are not that aware of it or doesn’t really affect their work or studies with it.

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