Libertarianism, Liberalism

Liberalism in the Balance

What the new president has done in his first few days in office has hardly been surprising, even as it’s profoundly horrific. What has surprised me is the reaction by some libertarians, including at least one libertarian educational institution in a mass email, which has been along the lines of “well he’s doing some good things too and you can’t ignore them.” They then point to his desire to get rid of the ACA and several of his Cabinet and other appointments that suggest there will be deregulation (e.g. Betsy DeVos, Andrew Pudzer, Scott Pruitt, and Tom Price). Or they point to his talk of tax cuts. So, they argue, libertarians should be acknowledging the good stuff and taking advantage of an opporutnity here for positive change instead of just seeing Trump as Cheeto Mussolini.

They couldn’t be more wrong in my view. What they fail to recognize is that the Bad Things that Trump is doing are Very Bad Things and that the Good Things they are hoping for are both much less important than the Very Bad Things and much less likely to happen. One friend has created a ledger document that lists the good on one side and the bad on the other. The problem with that ledger is that it is unweighted. A small tax cut, or freezing the minimum wage are, in my view, an order of magnitude less morally important than authorizing torture, suggesting Muslim registries, closing the border to refugees, ignoring the Constitution and the rule of law, revving up the US war machine, trying to muzzle the media, building a wall, undoing decades of peace and prosperity-enhancing global trade, threatening to send troops to Chicago, and so forth.

I am as much of a radical libertarian as anyone, but I cannot fathom how self-described libertarians can think that marginal tax cuts, lighter FDA regulation, or even getting rid of the ACA (all of which I think would be welcome) even come close to balancing out the illiberal and inhumane policies listed above. The power given the state in those items in Trump’s agenda are a fundamental threat to liberalism and to domestic and global peace.

He is a baboon flinging shit at the liberal tradition and the liberal order, while some libertarians sit around, covered with it, thinking that the drink of water he’s promising them later somehow offsets it.

Why some, and I emphasize this is just “some,” libertarians have adopted this view is what puzzles me. I have several possible explanations:

  1. Too many libertarians are too focused on economics and are less concerned with other parts of the liberal order, especially the formal and informal political institutions that are equally necessary for a free society. It’s not just the anarchists here, but rather a large blind spot about the politics of liberalism and the nature of its institutions and their functions that affects even those who see a role for the state. This is a missing element of the contemporary liberal intellectual tradition as co-blogger Jacob has pointed out.
  1. Too many libertarians hate the left more than they love liberty. One response I’ve heard to my pushing back on their take on Trump is that “well Obama/Clinton was/would have been worse!” No, actually he wasn’t and I don’t think she would have been. Yes, they might have expanded the regulatory state, but there would be no revival of torture, no wall, no registry, no trade war, no attempt to muzzle the media, etc.. Trump is a tin-pot dictator wannabe (and startingtobe), without an ounce of knowledge or respect for constitutional limits on government, who threatens the foundational institutions of the liberal order. Obama was not. Clinton is not. I confess to some schadenfreude myself as the left squirms in the aftermath of a defeat they didn’t see coming. But every time Trump opens his mouth, the fundamental threat to liberty he and his supporters embody overwhelms that. Now, more than ever, libertarians need good-hearted, open-minded people on the left as allies in an attempt to preserve the things we agree on. We should never let our frustrations with the left become more important than preserving the liberal order.
  1. I suspect too that for some libertarians, there is indeed a kind of “America first” attitude going on here. Notice that almost everything on the “plus” side of the ledger are policies that primarily affect Americans. School choice, ending the ACA, deregulation at the FDA or Labor, and even tax cuts are policies that pretty much exclusively affect Americans. On the other side, torture, trade, immigration, refugees, and war are things that have major effects on citizens in the rest of the world. Dammit, libertarians, they count too. The liberal vision has always been a global, cosmopolitian one, and there are no grounds for saying the interests of Americans trump (as it were) those of the rest of the globe.

And here is where the weighting issue returns: the gains to the rest of the world from being able to trade with Americans and emigrate, or get refugee status, here, are enormous. Freeing up the global movement of goods, services, and people is the single most valuable thing we could do to reduce global poverty and improve the lives of billions. The lost opportunities to do so that will come from raising trade and immigration barriers represent a welfare loss far greater than the gains that would come (if they even happen) from marginal cuts in taxes or regulation. As important as school choice, for example, is to poor Americans, the opportunity to sell goods and services in the US market or migrate here for work is far more valuable to the rest of the globe.

No libertarianism worth its name should ever accept those kinds of fundamental restrictions on the rights of humans, and their freedom to peacefully provide for themselves and their families, in exchange for the pot of gruel of the promise of some tax cuts and deregulation.

Nor should any libertarianism worth its name think for a second that there is some sort of equal moral weighting between those promised economic policies and the return of state-sponsored torture, or troops in the streets of Chicago, or cozying up to Putin, or saber-rattling with the rest of the world.

There’s no moral equivalence here. There are just a whole lot of Very Bad Things that are really happening right now. You can create all the balance sheets you want, but if you don’t understand that some things are far more important than others, you are not blind like the impartial scale of justice, but blind instead to the future of liberalism that hangs in that balance.

  • Bill Woolsey

    I don’t find it necessary to weight. I support the good things and oppose the bad things. Some of the good things, I didn’t really expect. I am pleasantly surprised. So far, there hasn’t been too many bad things that I didn’t expect. (And some of the bad things Trump advocated haven’t materialized yet.)

    • I don’t weight, either. The slaughter of an innocent child is equally counted with a decline in the price of milkshakes.

      • Jeff R.

        It’s tough, in my view, because there are annoying kids and good kids, and then there are some good and not so good milkshakes.

      • Ace

        Which makes me wonder why that seems not to be a consideration here.

      • sandy

        I think you’re missing Bill’s point.

        Of course it’s necessary to weight in order to evaluate whether the administration is an overall good deal. (But that question is irrelevant for now, because the election is over. Revisit it in 3 to 4 years – by then the facts will also be in, and you won’t have to rely on your beliefs of what Trump might or intends to do.)

        You do not need to weight anything in order to praise or enjoy the good things when they happen, and criticize the bad things when they happen.

      • Theresa Klein

        But what if I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE???

        (Sorry, had to.)

    • LLC

      Even as you decry weighting, you indicate that you weight by whether or not you expected something.

  • Taran Wanderer


  • N.K Anton

    I think there’s almost a pseudo-ressentiment that drives or is the origin of a lot of libertarian’s anti-statism. Its not so much that they love liberty but hate the state (particularly the welfare state). I think a lot of the overalp with social conservatism comes into this – who are quite happy to keep the welfare state and protectionism for certain kind of americans versus others.

    • Sharon Presley

      And you have a study to back you up where? I, on the other hand, have actually studied libertarians as a social psychologist. So you are talking drivel. The new Johnny and Jill come latelies from the Ron Paul campaign are not in fact the average libertarian. I think people are libertarians for many different reasons just like any ideology, most on principled grounds, some on reactionary grounds. Some of us have never been conservatives and in fact don’t like most conservatives. So your back seat psychologizing is just BS.

      • N.K Anton

        Perhaps, I was overstating and overgeneralizing my remark but one that I’ve seen pretty often in real life and online. That being said, its not an original thought but one I got from Will Wilkinson as a guest on Rationally Speaking. You can argue that a lot of self-identified libertarians – especially the Ron Paul types, are not true believers and so on but libertarian ideas have utility for these people and certainly use them for their non-libertarian starting points – something libertarians need to reckon with and this blog does reckon with.

        On another note, I was a big fan of the De Cleyre book you edited, got me interested in anarchism when I was in high school and made quite an impression on me at the time – so I thank you for that!

    • Theresa Klein

      I think it’s fair to say that there is a faction of self-described libertarians who are only interested in their liberty to be assholes to social outgroups – black people, gays, immigrants. And they are only anti-welfare because they don’t want their money going to black people and immigrants, not because they are against wealth transfers on principle.

      They’re totally fine with using trade restrictions to benefit working class white people in Michigan for instance.

  • Jeff R.

    The liberal vision has always been a global, cosmopolitian one, and there are no grounds for saying the interests of Americans trump (as it were) those of the rest of the globe.

    Dubious. I think you would have a a difficult time convincing me that the US government, funded, as it is, by US citizens, ought not to act primarily in the interest of those citizens. For what do I pay the piper, if not to call the tune?

    • Bonnie Taylor, MA

      As one of those Americans, I don’t necessarily consider my “funding” as the price of admission for joining the United States Club. Especially since I didn’t have to apply for membership. I regard “paying the piper” as an objective means of accounting for my contribution to the collective effort of society, which with all its flaws used to be OK in some respects. But that is becoming less true nowadays, IMO. To quote the piece, “…torture, trade, immigration, refugees, and war are things that have major effects on citizens in the rest of the world. Dammit, libertarians, they count too…there are no grounds for saying the interests of Americans trump (as it were) those of the rest of the globe.”

    • You pay the piper because he has a gun to the heads of you and your family, and you lack the means to kill him in self-defense.

      • Jeff R.

        That’s fair, but what keeps the situation from becoming openly extortionary is that the federal government at least pretends to respond to the wants and needs of people whose property it takes. Weighting the interests of non-citizens the same as citizens, particularly when they conflict, represents an obvious step away from that arrangement and towards more open coercion.

        • Theresa Klein

          The federal government demonstrably does not respond to the wants and needs of all citizens equally.

          • Jeff R.

            Let’s not make the problem worse then, eh?

          • Theresa Klein

            How is the problem made worse by treating citizens that want to hire foreigners equally with citizens that don’t want to compete with foreigners?

          • Jeff R.

            If the former outnumber the latter, but can’t get their preferred policies enacted, isn’t that a little undemocratic? That’s my point.

          • Theresa Klein

            Majorites don’t get to impose whatever rules they want on other people. If your preferred policies harm people who aren’t doing anything to harm you, then why do you have a right to enact them. Preventing someone from hiring a person is a harm in a way that not hiring someone isn’t.

            If I hire a foreigner, I’m not harming a fellow citizen by declining to hire them instead.

        • Lacunaria

          It’s not quite “fair”, considering that you can leave. People stay (or immigrate!) because they prefer the US to their alternatives.

      • Lacunaria

        And apparently lack the means to leave. People stay (or immigrate!) because they prefer the US to their alternatives.

    • Theresa Klein

      Which citizens? Working class white guys, or brown/black/asian people who want to buy products made in China?

  • I do not share your pessimism. My belief about US presidents is that they tend to enact the same set of policies no matter who they are; only the rhetoric changes.

    Let’s take a look at your list of very bad things:

    A small tax cut, or freezing the minimum wage are, in my view, an order of magnitude less morally important than authorizing torture, suggesting Muslim registries, closing the border to refugees, ignoring the Constitution and the rule of law, revving up the US war machine, trying to muzzle the media, building a wall, undoing decades of peace and prosperity-enhancing global trade, threatening to send troops to Chicago, and so forth.

    Of these, on the [re]authorization of torture has actually happened. That, too, is a thing that was already occurring under the previous two presidents. Yes, it is a terrible thing, but by precedent we have no reason to suggest that Trump is unique in his authorization of torture.

    The infamous wall is an idea that has been kicked around for years by establishment politicians. The losing presidential candidate had gone on record as supporting the idea. This is a terrible affront to liberty, but not one that can be solely attributed to Trump.

    The saber-rattling, the ignoring of the Constitution, the undoing of free trade, all of these things have been going on for years. To single these things out as being Trump-specific policies is simply to bury your head in the sand.

    It is sad to me that so few people can recognize the difference between rhetoric and reality. Many of us are so well-practiced in the art of obsessing over words that we now see them as a kind of magical thinking: If Trump says something, that is the same thing as actually doing it. If Trump does something that other politicians do, but says something nasty, that somehow makes the policy worse. And so forth…

    So why don’t I share your pessimism? Because Trump is so offensive to the liberal types that they are finally beginning to articulate arguments for liberty, for restricting government, for a free and hostile press. These are great things. Not even George W. Bush was capable of pulling these arguments out of the left. The times are changing. Keep your eye on the prize.

    • Graham Peterson


    • Ze Cat

      We’ve always been fighting for these things. You just haven’t listened. Now it is the RIGHT that is joining us in the chorus, so I expect that is why you are hearing us now. You truly know nothing about liberals, do you?

    • Lucas

      While your point seems to ring true, it actually contradicts your own argument. As you rightly point out, presidents are very similar, and I would go so far as to say that governments are very similar. When Republicans are not in power, they want a small state and every law proposed by democrats is an affront to individual freedom. When Republicans are in power, they suddenly want a massive state that decides every detail of your life. While it is good that democrats are finally starting to realize that a small government might not be a bad thing, as soon as they get rid of Trump, they’ll move towards a big government.

      Call me cynical, but I’ve met very few people who want power but don’t want to use it.

      • For all those who actually pursue power, I group them together in the same category of “people who do pretty much the same thing, no matter what their rhetoric happens to be.” I agree that these people aren’t making genuine arguments for smaller government.

        But the more such arguments are articulated, published, and popularized, the more everyone else in the universe becomes interested in liberty. If the people have a lot of practice reading and articulating arguments for liberty, then I count this as a reason for optimism regardless of what tyranny is planned by the politicians.

  • patrick ogle

    I am not a Libertarian…but I respect people who sincerely believe in Libertarian principles. I think they are a valuable part of a representative democracy and their voice should be heard. I think the answer to why so many libertarians are ok with Trump’s behavior (eloquently outlined above) is that many people use the name “libertarian” be seem to not know what it means? I talk to people all the time and find this. It isn’t peculiar to libertarians. I talk to self-described socialists who don’t understand what that means either. I think people pick a political “side” and act like it is a team they root for. I don’t think EVERYONE does this but a sizeable minority do. Keep up the good work…I retweeted this earlier.

    • Sharon Presley

      You’ve made a good point and I agree with you. I’ve seen a lot of this. For example, newbies who try to tell ME that I am not a libertarian when in fact I have been a libertarian activist since 1964 and write a column for Catos’s libdotorg blog plus a zillion other credentials. I’d laugh if it weren’t so annoying.
      I do however think that the libertarians who like Trump as WAY in a minority.

      • patrick ogle

        Keep up your work. As I noted I am not a libertarian–educate the folks who use the term. Obviously you can. I don’t want to bore with my ideology but I will say one thing–I believe in democracy and I believe different political positions act as checks and balances on each other. Libertarians are the people I count on to be the first to stand up against government over reach and a drift to authoritarianism. Again, keep up your work.

  • SarahMaywalt

    Definite liberal here. This election and its outcome have separated the cream from every ideological movement. I have never felt more together with some of my fellow conservative, liberal, and libertarian citizens, and more divided from others. While I clearly disagree with you on many points of policy, I would much rather meet people like you or John Kasich or Evan McMullen on the political battlefield then any spineless coward in Washington willing to sell our freedom and humanity as a nation for policy points. Not all the people in Washington are such cowards, but far too many of them are.

    I my hope is that this disaster of a president will finally bring together the people who really care about America from all ideologies and in defeating him teach us how to speak to each other again. So keep fighting, and hopefully soon we can spend one glorious day in the sun arguing, tooth and nail, the pros and cons of socialized medicine or something similar, but maybe without smugness or superiority from either side for the first time.

  • DST

    I think articles like this demonstrate how libertarians cannot hope to meaningfully ally themselves with leftists, even those who downplay their own their own leftism by calling themselves left- or bleeding heart libertarians.

    In the same way that conservatives were wrong to unthinkingly reject every policy of the Obama administration, leftists and pseudo-libertarians are wrong to categorically reject every single action by Trump.

    Most of what I see in this article is moral preening and infantile rage. Horowitz refers to Trump as “Cheeto Mussolini,” which reminds me of conservatives calling Obama “Chocolate Jesus.” Makes me want to know more, Steve! He also complains about a reduction in the refugee program, which is just a US taxpayer-funded welfare program for foreign nationals. How libertarian!

    I didn’t vote for Trump, I didn’t want to him to be president, but it would be intellectually dishonest of me not to acknowledge when he does something good. I reject the absolutism and dishonesty of people like Horowitz.

    • Theresa Klein

      He also complains about a reduction in the refugee program, which is
      just a US taxpayer-funded welfare program for foreign nationals.

      Yeah, those people fleeing war and oppression are just mooching off society. Fuck them. I don’t understand why some people say libertarians have no empathy. I just don’t get it.

      • DST

        I think you meant to leave your comment here:

        It’s an easy mistake to make, I sometimes confuse these two websites myself.

  • Thinkoutloud

    I wish there was some expansion on the impact of Trumps policies/rhetoric to the rest of the world. Disorder abroad never stays there. If this leads to an even bigger radicalization of the world, will tax cuts and a few jobs make it OK?

  • Witchwindy

    What everyone seems to ignore:
    Indeed, one of the greatest “secrets” of the 2016 campaign (though it should be common knowledge) is that the border wall already exists. It has existed for years, and the fingerprints all over it aren’t Donald Trump’s but those of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

    Twenty-one years before Trump’s wall-building promise (and seven years before the 9/11 attacks), the US Army Corps of Engineers began to replace the chain link fence that separated Nogales, Sonora (in Mexico) from Nogales, Arizona, with a wall built of rusty landing mats from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Although there had been various half-hearted attempts at building border walls throughout the 20th century, this was the first true effort to build a barrier of what might now be called Trumpian magnitude.

    That rusty, towering wall snaked through the hills and canyons of northern Sonora and southern Arizona, forever deranging a world that, given cross-border familial and community ties, then considered itself one. At the time, who could have known that the strategy the first wall embodied would remain the model for today’s massive system of exclusion.

    In 1994, the perceived threat wasn’t terrorism. In part, the call for more hardened, militarized borders came in response, among other things, to a never-ending drug war. It also came from US officials who anticipated the displacement of millions of Mexicans after the implementation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which, ironically, was aimed at eliminating barriers to trade and investment across North America.

    • LLC

      Another thing people seem to ignore is that whatever the length and height of a wall, it will keep out only those who have access to neither shovel nor ladder. This whole thing is just Trump bullshit to rouse his mark (excuse me, ‘base’).

  • chris hofmann

    While I agree with the premise of this article, I wholeheartedly disagree about all of the “negatives” because many of them aren’t actually true.
    Torture – This is not unique to Trump, and Trump specifically said he would defer to Mattis, who is actually against torture…. Good Trump!

    Muslim Registries – He didn’t do this….. so not an actual issue.

    Refugees – He did this. It is bad. Agreed. BAD TRUMP.

    Ignoring constitution – To my knowledge… he hasn’t actually done this yet. If he has, it certainly hasn’t been any worse than past POTUSes. Obviously this is still bad, but it doesn’t make Trump uniquely bad.

    Revving up War Machine – How exactly is he doing this besides in your head?

    Muzzle the Media – How exactly is he doing this besides in your head? Media still has access. Media also continues to treat him extremely unfairly…. perhaps they should be less partisan.

    Build a Wall – yep. This is bad. BAD TRUMP.

    Global Trade – Nothing has actually been proposed yet. The only thing that has been sorta suggested is essentially a VAT (i.e. a border-adjusted tax applied uniformly). Many other countries already do this, including the entire EU…. so if they didn’t start a huge trade war, why would we be?

    Chicago – Trump makes some dumb comments, like this one. He didn’t actually propose doing anything. Unfortunately, much of what he says off the cuff needs to be ignored.

    • Ace

      Chris, I agree a lot with you and while Trump should show more compassion on refugees I don’t believe everyone who is against it is a bigot and there is a strong rational for it, but, more importantly, how does any stance on refugees have anything to do with libertarianism or the Constitution and therefor how could his position be bad in that sense? I’m not seeing it! No one has a right to come here in such a very complicated situation as we are under siege financially, terrorism concerns, looking at Europe falling apart and our immigration problems and we could go on, even though every naive or intellectually dishonest person tries to compare this to former refugees of our country or McCay Coppins comparing this to Mormon discrimination in the 1800’s. I’m getting really sick if this stuff and McMullin is not helping the situation and I voted for him.

    • Ace

      To back you up a bit, Obama is the one that just sent troops to Europe on Russia’s border. This is why I’m so turned off by the arguments of McMullin types. They just seem intellectually dishonest.

    • Ace

      Its funny how ppl complained Romney didn’t fight back with the media enough, such as Candly Crowley’s defense of Obama in the debate which also factually wrong. The media propped Trump up-billions in free advertising in the primaries for ratings and because they thought he’d be best shot to rig the election for Hillary. Again, McMullin types in my view are being extremely misleading. So Trump’s a little tough and doesn’t perfectly live up to many of our ideas. I’m sure if you believe in the Bible prophets as well would have disappointed. No man is perfect and this idea you can’t praise Trump where he does good is insane. Mark my words, the end result of this thinking as in this article and reflected by Evan McMullin and his disguised organization is the glorious cause and purpose of running a candidate in 2020 just to elect a Liberal by pulling enough votes and again they will lie and act like they have a chance and aren’t running to throw Donald out.

    • Ace

      And building the wall might not be the wisest thing, but in this day and age how does that have anything to do with the Constitution or Libertarianism? Even Evan McMuffin agrees with building a wall in some areas.

  • pj

    Thankyou Steve.

  • sandy

    Maybe you should also weight the items with the degree to which they are based in reality:

    a) Cabinet picks, instituting a regulatory freeze and hiring freeze for federal agencies, suspending entry from certain countries, etc. are things that have actually happened – so weight them normally.

    b) Repealing ACA, building the wall, etc. are things for which verbal commitments have been re-iterated and the procedural ground-work is being actively laid, but which haven’t materialized yet, and we can’t say for sure that they will. So let’s weight them with a reduced factor for now.

    c) Troops in Chicago, the media being silenced, wars being started, etc. only exist in your fevered imagination. They’re not happening, and intentional hostile misinterpretation of things the administration has said is required to support the idea that they might happen in the next 4 or 8 years. So let’s weight them with factor zero, okay?

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  • Elizabeth

    I’m a hardcore liberal and I stumbled on this article because I’m searching for some kind of reassurance that the *other* side of the political fence might be shocked by Trump, too. (Thanks to Evan McMullin for tweeting the link.) I know a lot of people who are really fired up about the policy issues mentioned in this article and I share their outrage. It astounds me that more repubs in Congress don’t speak up against them as extreme/irresponsible/unAmerican. However, what really troubles me is the level of apathy about the non-policy stuff, the spider web of financial conflicts of interest and most especially those in foreign countries (never mind the Russian stuff, everything else is plenty bad too). Where is the outrage about that, from ALL political corners? I see the conservative movement as setting a fairly anti-intellectual agenda for AT LEAST a couple decades now (since Dubya, certainly Palin), so perhaps Trump’s impulsiveness/cluelessness isn’t going to trigger fears for that segment of voters, but why not the financial stuff? I have two boys (age 11 and 14) and I’m terrified about how a mentally unstable person (with no history of public service and a lifetime of acting only in his own self-interest) might blunder us into a military conflict. I hate that he’s doing all this other unAmerican discriminatory crap, but I step back and wonder also: aren’t there lots of scared REPUBLICANS? Where are they? Are they calling Congress or is that strictly a liberal SJW thing?

  • Thea Tsatsos

    Thank you. You’ve helped me to better understand many conflicting feelings. One thing i am aware of for sure is that I need to stay close to the libertarian fold in this time o accute polarization of, in my case, family, neighbors and friends.

  • Sergio Méndez

    As I see it, the problem with a large sector of libertarianism, is that they are the result of the cold war era alliance with the right. And then, they adopted many of the right wing values (racism, and eventually xenophobia). That is what explains the “they hate more the left than love freedom”. I will even venture to say that many libertarians (think of the paleoconservative side, the lew rockwell and company) never ever loved freedom at all.

    • Hitch

      The problem with libertarians is that they call themselves libertarians, when they are not.

      • LLC

        It’s my observation that Libertarians cover a wider spectrum than any other ideology-based party/movement.

        • Hitch

          Then why do they attack Bill Weld? Gary Johnson?

    • Hollis Butts

      I could say that non-libertarians venerate Stalin, hate liberal values and possibly secretly eat babies but such blank assertions wouldn’t get us anywhere would it?

      • Sergio Méndez

        You could, and it will make non sense. Not only because is not true, but if your intention is to make a comparative assertion, you forgot I said “a large sector of libertarianism” not “all libertarians”. And in any case, it doesn’t change the fact that what I said is true.

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  • Graham Peterson

    There are no unprecedented attacks on the press. Trump criticizes the media for their bias. Media bias is empirically well established. Can you explain what’s wrong with the Post Truth President highlighting a grave issue in freedom of conscience, that the anti-science left refuses to accept? These rhetorical swipes at the media are a good thing. And there’s otherwise no material evidence of media crackdowns.

    Obama was a disaster on media freedom and other First Amendment issues like religious expression, campus speech protection, Title IX enforcement. A total disaster. Hillary wasn’t going to be any better. She had a sniffing disregard for opposition media and would have just reinforced the idea that CNN is an unbiased arbiter of capital-R reality. You’ll note that some journalists were recently charged with rioting. And that would be to note a trend line that had a positive and large first derivative during the Bush and Obama presidencies. Moreover, the charges were levied by local police, not Justice, Homeland Security, etc.

    But if you listen to a liberal media, Trump is an authoritarian threat to the Fourth Estate. I’m sorry, but CNN, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, are not the Fourth Estate. These outlets ignored and slandered swaths of the Republic and made it impossible for them to express themselves publicly, such that their only Voice left was the vote. And now we have Trump, a man who was elected in large part as a giant Fuck You to liberal media. This is also supported by data. The Trump explainers that did the most views at National Review and Reason attributed Trump to political correctness. And his fans told everyone outright that’s what they were pissed about.

    Now the president they voted in is censuring the media. Censuring – not censoring. In what universe does a populist plurality, who are only represented in media only by low rent AM radio, social media, upstart cable networks, and now a punchy president, constitute a gaggle of authoritarian censors? THESE PEOPLE, Trumpkins, these are the Fourth Estate. This is the biggest win for freedom of speech and conscience in 100 years.

    And we could take a lesson. Libertarianism has become a boutique ideology principally popular among upper middle class educated whites. We survive almost exclusively on donor welfare. Our message is commercially stillborn and only becoming more so. We have been run out of elite circles in the academy and media, save a handful of token scholars and media personalities. And yet here we are, again, siding with Jake Tapper about how right wing populism is a threat to the Fourth Estate. Ridiculous.

    Populists on the left and right are the only chance we have of finding an audience and turning people against the state. Denouncing Trump merely reinforces the Great Man theory of government and retrenches our alliance with six-figure-salaried establishment Democrats and Republicans. These people are losing, badly. Libertarians already know how to lose. Let’s not anymore.

    • Theresa Klein

      Populists on the left and right are the only chance we have of finding an audience and turning people against the state.

      A brilliant plan. Let’s get the nationalists and the socialists together to destroy the state. I’m sure that will work out splendidly.

  • James Cagney

    He’s your bully therefore you love him. Conservatives love him. Libertarians love him. He is bullying your political enemies and putting “America first”. Yes, he’s a dumbass who knows nothing about economics or trade, but neither do the people that voted for him.

    • Steven Horwitz

      Not my bully. I don’t love him.

    • Theresa Klein

      I wouldn’t say libertarians in general love him. Most libertarians adamantly do not. What Trump has done is really expose that there is a significant fraction (a minority) of the libertarian movement which is really nothing of the sort, but just a means for a bunch of racist, nationalist, bullies to drape themselves in the flag of liberty while pursuing the worst kinds of authoritarian populism. They disgrace themselves and the name of liberty in doing so.

  • dL

    Agree with Horowitz 100%. I used to think libertarians got a bad rap when it came to supporting Augusto Pinochet back in the day. Judging by the extent of the libertarian rationalizations of the Trump regime today, I’m not so sure anymore. It appears that they are quite a few who value the lip service of state privatization over liberal political rights. Of course, when it comes to immigration, privatization of the state gets replaced with full bore communism.

  • Theresa Klein

    This is where the unbalanced demographic mixture of libertarians really becomes a problem. There are a fair number of self-described libertarians who will adamantly defend a Christian bakers right to not bake cakes for a gay wedding. But as soon as someone else’s rights inconvenience a straight white male, a million excuses are found for why that person’s liberty must be restricted, for the common good of course. Immigrants compete for jobs with working class whites, so an excuse is concocted – those immigrants are going to bring socialism – for why their rights must be restricted. Trade harms the interests of US manufacturing workers (who are disproportionately white), so therefore a rationale is invented in which trade deals are unlibertarian because they don’t completely eliminate all trade barriers – so we shouldn’t have them at all.

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  • monkey_avatar

    I have always voted for Democrats, but I have also been somewhat sympathetic to libertarians’ historical positions on limiting the size and scope of government, promoting trade, ending the drug war, and expanding lawful immigration. All of these historical positions favor liberty over the state. But the libertarians’ recent acceptance of Trump is too much for me to take. I can’t take libertarians seriously anymore. I used to think that they were intellectually honest, but I have now been cured of that illusion. If a person is willing to accept torture, overlook discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, and national origin, severely restrict trade and immigration, and embrace a nationalistic, science-denying, authoritarian regime–all in the name of repealing ACA and shrinking the regulatory state–then it is clear to me that libertarians care far more about the Republican party than they care about liberty.

    • Theresa Klein

      Please don’t judge all of us on the basis of what the troglodytes in the comments section say. There are lots of us who don’t “accept” Trump at all.

      The disheartening thing is that it appears the nativist/internationalist split has cracked the libertarian movement right down the middle.

  • barneby

    As someone on the far left end of the spectrum, I’m more than happy to join forces with anyone who stands for true liberty and freedom. Thank you for this post and stating that people, regardless of location, are more important than numbers on a balance sheet.

    Unfortunately, I feel that our priorities as a nation have been utterly backwards for a number of decades now. Oftentimes, we hear that this candidate will be great for the economy and that other candidate will not. Practically nothing is said on their stance on human rights and individual liberties. Add to that the incessant fearmongering which has been used to destroy privacy with hardly any voices of dissent, and you’ve got a large population that seems pretty complacent when it comes to handing over their rights and thinks the economy is more important than people.

    Lastly, if we start a trade war, the American people will be financially harmed, particularly the middle class and the poor, as prices go up. Costs are always forwarded on to the consumers, and just because prices increase, it doesn’t mean wages will increase to offset them.

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  • roadsider

    Plain and simple, the Left overplays its hand, which should surprise no one in this volatile political climate. Right or wrong, however, they will only make Littlefinger’s supporters dig in even deeper, with no net progress on any front. Displays of destruction, pussy hats, and Elizabeth Warren’s caterwauling play very badly with people who only want a decent job and a sense that their government listens to them.

  • Bellerophons_Revenge

    “Now, more than ever, libertarians need good-hearted, open-minded people
    on the left as allies in an attempt to preserve the things we agree on.”

    I watched Murray Rothbard do this same “Allies on the Left” song and dance nearly 50 years ago. Bad news, there aren’t any allies on the Left. Most of them (yes most) would gleefully accept drone assassinations of terrorists and mass surveillance of “hate groups” (which is everyone but them) if they could expand Obamacare into full socialized medicine. If Horwitz thinks that some libertarians are obsessed with small tax cuts he should see what the Left does about small spending cuts which aren’t even cuts but merely smaller growth than they wanted.

    Yes, Trump is the American Mussolini but no alliance of libertarians with Leftist big government ideologies is going to stop Trump. When the economy collapses and America falls to 30th or even 50th among nations in terms of personal and economic liberty then perhaps libertarian ideas may prevail. Diluting the ideals of liberty for short term gains is suicide.

    • Theresa Klein

      I agree it would require people on the left (liberal or whatever you want to call them) to embrace certain libertarian ideas, such as free trade and generally liberal markets. I could see an alliance forming if the left embraces a few things like eminent domain reform, occupational licensing reform, civil asset forfeiture reform, and trade liberalization though. The proposed liberaltarian alliance would revolve around economic liberalization at the lowest level where it would maximally benefit the poor and working class (occupational licensing, taxi cartels, etc. would have to die). I don’t know if the left is capable of that, but there might be some faction that would.

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  • ThaomasH

    Since we are not in an election right now, “balancing” the different Trump positions is not necessary. One can be in favor of certain changes to ACA (and opposed to others) and oppose a return to torture.