A libertarian ethnography

Recently I was prompted by an anthropology student at the University of Washington to answer several questions about libertarianism. The exchange was great, and provided a means to clarify several things that have been otherwise muddled.

Basic Questions:

1. How do you define a libertarian?

To me a libertarian is someone who believes in a limited government, which provides basic needs that most people believe to be necessary but does not try to stuff ideology down the citizens’ throats, the freedom of the individual to become whatever it is they want to be and a free market that allows great deals of mobility and ingenuity.

2. What influenced you to become and/or remain libertarian?

I love this country (for the ideals it was founded on, not because of nationalism, regionalism or nativism), and when I entered college, it became very clear that other students and professors didn’t. A bit of a blanket statement, I know, but it’s relatively true. I found myself defending slanderous left-wing statements about this country’s history, and in that process I realized I was libertarian. Liberty is the foundation of American society and government, and even if they don’t call themselves such, I think most Americans who love their country and find it exceptional are libertarians to a certain extent.

A libertarian view against the banks

There has been much ado over bailouts and socialism, Wall Street and Main Street, greedy bankers and noble capitalists, and a myriad of other related catchphrases and ideological positions when it comes to a discussion of the state of our financial system over the last year and a half. The debate rages on as today former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker testified before the Senate Banking Committee and with Barack Obama’s recent call for a new tax on banks. Volcker has suggested a ban on proprietary trading for certain banks. This is a modified reinstatement of Glass-Steagall which served to separate standard commercial banking from hedge fund like behavior.

Lately, the conservative mainstream has taken to siding against such reforms. Typical free market rhetoric has led the way. It’s been suggested that a ban on prop trading would over-regulate the banks and inhibit growth. We also hear the usual arguments against corporate taxes which state that it such policies only hurt the end consumer. I’d like to offer an alternative point of view on this subject that I think libertarians (and Libertarians) should consider supporting. I’ll present my logic one point at a time.

1. Our System Encourages “Too Big To Fail”

Why a Republican Resurgence is Good for Everybody

At the White House website, the biography of Bill Clinton illustrates the successes of his administration, most notably:

During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history.

It’s true. The Clinton years were some of the most prosperous years that the United States has ever seen. Was that the result of massive government spending and initiatives? Of course not. Clinton’s first major initiative - health care reform - failed, resulting in a Republican takeover of Congress and Clinton shifting to rhetoric such as ”the era of big government is over.”

The actual successes of the Clinton years were very right wing ones - welfare reform, free trade agreements and a robust innovative economy fueled by the ingenuity of software entrepreneurs. Spending was down, and Bill Clinton left office with a huge surplus. This was certainly the result of a lack of spending from the federal government, a foreseeable result of having two diametrically opposed political parties in power at once. The fact that the low-spending Clinton years (years in which the government actually shut down for nearly two months) resulted in economic prosperity, while high deficit eras like the pre-war terms of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Bush-Obama years resulted in depression and recession, makes one of the strongest cases for libertarianism.

What is a libertarian?

I am in regular contact with an old friend and frequent reader of United Liberty, who also happens to be what is popularly termed these days as a “progressive.” He likes Barack Obama, thinks Hillary Clinton is wonderful and, like most lefties, slumps all non-progressives together as “thieves” and similar terms.

He’s a good guy, but because of my libertarian rhetoric and his progressiveness, I often get the feeling that he doesn’t comprehend what I’m saying. That’s not an insult to intelligence, but more of a testament to the limited comprehension of political thought that is pervasive in today’s America. (I personally blame the onslaught into politics of social issues, which do alot to dumb down and simply discourse and amplify the irrelevant.) I find this most common amongst progressives, who generally don’t get libertarians. Because they see that libertarians are generally laissez faire on social issues, they often disregard libertarians as contrarians who have been brainwashed or caught up with right wing thieves and fascists.

Conservatives, unlike progressives, seem to (for the most part) at least get us. Conservatives have a good share of difference with us (just take a look at the 2008 Republican Presidential Debates to see what I mean) but they at least aren’t inherently hostile to our core ideas.

What is a libertarian?

There is No Police Like Holmes: Sherlock Holmes, Libertarian Hero.

Free Market Justice by Gaslight.

It is axiomatic that whatever the state can do the private sector can do better, and this lesson is rarely illustrated better in literature than in the stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  As it was said by Doyle’s brother-in-law E.W. Hornung, there is no police like Holmes.  With the new Sherlock Holmes movie set to be released on Christmas day, we will no doubt see a resurgence of interest in the original Sherlock Holmes stories, movies and television programs.  Viewers and fans would do well to note the prevalent anti-state themes that course through these stories like the famous cocaine through the veins of Holmes himself.

The relationship between Holmes and the official London police force showed the marked contrast between a skilled master and a team of public investigators usually barely maintaining the status quo at least a few steps behind the criminals.  Scotland Yard reeked of a smug incompetence that amused Holmes, even as he gave them the credit in most cases.  They were frequently on the wrong path, lecturing Holmes about him wasting time chasing his fancy theories which ended up being correct.  While Inspector Lestrade and the rest were so easily duped by the scheming criminals, Holmes did what the police should have done, what they were getting paid tax payer money to do.  In “The Case of the Red Circle” we even see that a constable on duty at a murder scene is easily manipulated by a housewife.  Like so many other instances in real life, the private market yielded results where the public option brought errors, gridlock and confusion.

Sarah Palin: Libertarian For President? Are You Kidding Me?

Over at NolanChart, one writer suggests that the Libertarian Party might want to look at a certain former Alaska Governor:

After decades of being forced to choose between voting for the lesser of two evils or wasting our votes on someone whose chance of winning was considerably less than that of the proverbial snowball in Hell, we libertarians — at long last — may have found in former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a Presidential candidate who is both acceptable and electable.


Earlier today Palin gave her long-awaited speech to a group of investors, analysts, bankers and fund-managers attending a Hong Kong conference sponsored by CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets (the “CLSA” stands for “Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia”). By all accounts — even The New York Times‘ — her speech was a huge hit. And, according to people in attendance, she clearly knew what she was talking about.

“A number of people who heard the speech in a packed hotel ballroom, which was closed to the media, said Mrs. Palin spoke from notes for 90 minutes and that she was articulate, well-prepared and even compelling,” said the Times report.

“She didn’t sound at all like a far-right-wing conservative,”, Doug A. Coulter of LGT Capital Partners told the Times. “She seemed to be positioning herself as a libertarian or a small-c conservative.”

My Townhall Experience

After attending several Atlanta area health care town hall forums sponsored by legislators in support of HR 3200, I decided to participate in one hosted by MY Congressman, Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA, 11th). I should note that I did not vote for or against Dr. Gingrey in 2008, as I lived in Georgia’s 13th Congressional District then. The convenience of the location of August 31st’s event could not have been better, unless it took place in my living room (the Cobb Civic Center is across the street from my neighborhood), however a 5:30 PM start time made it difficult for many constituents to attend.

Town Hall Atendee

I arrived at the Civic Center shortly after 5 PM to find a parking lot approximately half-full, some cars present as early as 3:30 PM. Outside the venue, there were a few individuals and groups handing literature to those entering, including members of GOP gubernatorial candidate, John Oxendine’s You Can Stop ObamaCare. I expected police-enforced restrictions that I encountered at previous town hall events, so my only tool to capture and share media of the event was my cell phone.

Once inside, I noted many of Rep. Gingrey’s older constituents in attendance, as I expected from reports of his previous forums on the subject. I also expected that most in attendance would be opposed to the health care reform bill known as HR 3200, also known as “ObamaCare,” like their Congressman, Rep. Gingrey. There were a handful of

Libertarians drifting back towards Republicans

Some of you may remember The Libertarian Vote, a Cato Institute study released back in 2006, which showed how libertarians and libertarian-leaning voters (fiscally conservative, socially liberal) were abandoning Republicans largely due to dramatically increased spending, the war in Iraq and increased intervention in individuals private lives.

During the 2008 president election, a couple of surveys, specifically Rasmussen, showed that libertarian voters were supporting Barack Obama over John McCain in the race between the “lesser of two evils.”

Austrian Scholar’s Conference 2009

Every year the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, AL hosts a conference for scholars of the Austrian tradition to come together and share essays and ideas.  This year’s conference was loaded with big names and reputable authors among the Libertarian and generally liberty-minded.

Appleseed: Aiming to Bear Fruit

The only thing missing from Fred’s shooting range in North Carolina is John William’s score from The Patriot.  You’ve got the rag-tag assortment of American everymen, you’ve got the red coat targets, and you’ll even feel a little of the same sense of urgency the American militiamen must’ve felt in the mid-1770’s.

Spending a weekend at an “Appleseed” rifleman school is not only a wise investment of money and time, it’s a whole lot of fun!  Hosted by the Revolutionary War Veteran’s Association (RWVA), the Appleseed program is acutely in touch with the importance marksmanship can have on history, as they refer to April 19, 1775 (the day of the “shot heard ‘round the world”) as the day “marksmanship met history, and heritage was born.”

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