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January 08, 2020


Alan Brisling

"Worse still, I suspect that some right-libertarians were never really sincere anyway".

You hear a lot of libertarians losing their s**t over slight increases in various sin taxes, but you don't hear much from them when the state is rounding up people to be deported (Windrush) arresting people without warrant (immigration enforcement teams) or changing the definition of extremism to include "opposition to British values"...

Libertarianism as practised by many on the right is more about opposing things that they find slightly annoying/culture war, than actual liberty (not all of course).

The culture war reason also explains cannabis: drug decriminalisation and liberal immigration are preserves of the left and so can't possibly be supported by right-"libertarians", despite being, um, libertarian positions.

Dave Timoney

Pointing out that the Conservative Party isn't chock-full of libertarians is a bit like pointing out that most of the PLP aren't socialists.


" They professed a love of freedom only as a stick with which to beat the old Soviet Union."

That sentence might have more validity (and a shred of morality) if the Soviet Union wasn't responsible for millions of deaths of its own citizens.......but hey, don't worry about millions of deaths, as someone once said thats a mere statistic. Lets criticise some ring wingers instead!


Pure libertarianism isn’t compatible with a welfare state.

For instance, a policy of drug legalisation only works in libertarian terms if drug users don’t wind up imposing costs on others through the NHS. But they do. Some marijuana use raises levels of psychosis and schizophrenia, and some leads to avoidable accidents. Legal highs like alcohol and tobacco already add to NHS costs, and they, too, are a problem from a libertarian point of view. (Note, I’m not making a general argument against legalising marijuana. It’s probably better to legalise it. But I accept the principle of collective healthcare for the citizenry, dispensed freely even to those who make themselves ill through their own folly).

The only libertarian way round this I can imagine is drug use insurance. The would-be user must first insure himself; he can only buy marijuana with a valid insurance certificate, and the insurance company has to pay up if he gets sectioned or crashes his car while high.

I doubt that it would work.


@Alan Brisling

Some libertarians, such as Bryan Caplan, argue in favour of open borders. Caplan is probably the most articulate advocate of open borders in the USA, from the left or the right. But, again, his reasoning ultimately depends on the USA abolishing its welfare state.


Jim says that because the Soviets were so bad that faking libertarian beliefs in order to oppose them was ok. Ends justify means sort of thing.
The problem with taking 'your' 'moral' high ground is the West didn't give two hoots what Stalin or the Soviets were doing in their backyard...just so long as they stayed there. Which is why the West had no compunction about the slaughter of millions in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America etc. It's just business. Power is the ends and the means by which you get it is anything goes.
And worth recalling the noble sentiments of much of American society and the British Tories/ruling class in the Stalin era was to stay out of the war against Hitler who was deemed less of a threat to capital than Stalin. So you could argue that tears shed for Stalin's victims were/are of the crocodile variety.


I’m not sure the premise here is correct: surely libertarians are just playing the long game: the economic damage of hard Brexit and the coming free trade deal with the USA will mean there is no alternative but radical deregulation, rolling back the state and decisively shifting the tax burden away from the rich and business.


"Worse still, I suspect that some right-libertarians were never really sincere anyway."

Some? My experience suggests almost all -- particularly the ideological leaders. Rothbard, for example, happily admitted to stealing the word "libertarian" from the left:


While also happily eliminating all fundamental liberties for non-property owners.

As for von Mises, he happily supported fascism -- indeed, gave advice to the Austrian fascists:


And von Hayek and Friedman supported Pinochet.

There is no "maybe" about it, Corey Robin was 100% correct -- the sad thing is that they stole the good word "libertarian" to use to describe their authoritarian ideology.



You’re grouping together all Cold War anti-Communist governance under the Libertarian moniker. I think that’s wrong. Presumably you think the Johnson administration, which funded the Great Society program, the Vietnam War and the Apollo program, was ideologically in favour of small government.

The Cold War actually made Western countries far more state interventionist. Partly this was because of Cold War defence spending. But it was also because voters didn’t want a return to the 1930s, so mostly voted for Keynesian, interventionist economic policies. At the time, France and Italy had large, popular Communist parties, and this encouraged their non-Communist opponents to try harder to provide the material improvements which would draw them away from Communism.

I’m not a Libertarian. E.O. Wilson’s criticism of Marxism (wonderful theory, wrong species) applies in an equal and opposite way to Libertarianism. It might work for polar bears…


I'm not suggesting that at all. Jim referred in his post to Soviet crimes against their own people as somehow a justification for adopting any old argument in an effort to oppose the Soviets.
That said, numerous US leaders and UK ones have blathered on about 'freedom' (think Reagan and Thatcher) in attacks on Soviet Union even whilst engaging in imperialist adventures and sponsoring bestial dictatorships across the globe.


Don't you just love "bestial dictatorships"? So much easier to admit than the colossal numbers of deaths achieved in USSR, China, Cambodia


Ha! Cambodia? Imagine... Drop bombs of equivalent tonnage to all those dropped by US in pacific theatre during WW2 on one small country (but let's not call it war) between '65 and '73 and see what happens.
Then support Pol Pot as legitimate rep' at UN and support Chinese funding of same regime throughout 1980's.



The ironies in our relationship with Russia, and Russia’s relationship with us, are endless.

The USSR reached Peak Evil under Stalin. But after 1941 we needed Russia to defeat Germany, so we lied (to the world and to ourselves) about Katyn and other Soviet crimes, for the sake of the anti-Nazi alliance.

Though Hitler and Stalin were rulers of comparable vileness, they were temperamentally very different. Where Hitler was cocky and impulsive, Stalin was cautious and paranoid. Stalin preferred to act only when he had the overwhelming advantage: he delayed his participation in the 1939 Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland until he had signed a non-aggression treaty with Imperial Japan, for instance. That’s why I can’t imagine Stalin doing anything as gung-ho as Khruschev did in 1962, when he deployed nukes in Cuba; yet Khruschev was, in Communist terms, a softie - someone we should, in theory, have found it easier to do business with.

I think our main failing - on both left and right - is to see countries purely as map coordinates of ideology, forgetting that they are also nations with national interests. It’s this thinking which led the US to join the Vietnam War, and which may yet lead it to war with Iran. Countries are physically situated: even the most full-bore millenarian cult of “permanent world revolution”, if it doesn’t kill its host (and therefore itself), eventually mutates into “socialism in one country”, or “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. In other words, a form of “national” (small-n) socialism.

BTW - in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher may have been a fierce Cold Warrior. But at the decade’s end, as Communism collapsed, she was one of the few voices urging caution against imposing a second Brest-Litovsk on Russia, through German reunification and eastward expansion of NATO. Nowadays her reticence to join the triumphalist partying is portrayed as her worst foreign policy blunder, because it upset Helmut Kohl.

It’s intriguing to see how McCarthyism has now returned in reverse form. Where the 1950s version imagined every leftie as Stalin’s stooge, the modern version sees every national populist as Putin’s…

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