Critiquing the Modern American Libertarian Movement

An RNL reader who goes by the name of Charles David Edinger posted a lengthy comment about Libertarians in a thread I posted, Libertarians Harming their Cause over Zimmerman Case.  I found the comment interesting and promised to make my reply into a separate post, and here it is.  Also, for the sake of helping the reader follow along, I re-posted the entire comment to which I am responding as the first reply to this post.  You can find it at the bottom of the page.

CDE,

First, I suppose I should start by trying to make sure we all read from the same sheet of music in what could prove to be a lively and interesting discussion.  To that end, I want to start by defining how I see the terms Left and Right in relation to the political spectrum.  In the interest of brevity, I think it is best explained here:

The Political Spectrum as it Really Is

Next, I need to state that I tend to believe that our founders established the best formula for maintaining individual rights and liberty and to preserving a free and self-governing society since that which Moses established after the Exodus.  So, while I am not dogmatic in following their every word, I do tend to see the society they built as the ideal, and I measure everything against their yard stick.

Finally, I need to state that I do not believe those who call themselves “conservative” are in our founder’s camp.  The modern American conservative supports too many institutions which our founders held to be injurious of individual liberty to claim the mantle of heir to our founders’ ideology.  At the same time, neither can modern American “Libertarians” lay claim to that mantle.  Whereas the conservative resides too far to the right of our founders, the libertarian is too far to their left.

Now, this all said, let me just open the discussion with some observations that should help you understand my objection to the libertarian cause.

First, while most libertarians will espouse an allegiance to individual rights and liberty, I have found that they generally hold what we would consider a liberal/progressive set of values with one major difference: libertarians want to hold on to their money.  In short, you could call them greedy liberals.

Now, I expect the first objection to this assertion will be that libertarians do not want to tell me what I can and can’t do the way liberal/progressives do.  However, I would counter that objection by saying they bloody well do want to tell me what to do by telling me what I can’t do.  And this is where we get into something you said:

Part of our Libertarian charm is that most of us share a set of basic, clear principles, and then value the intellectual freedom to interpret the meaning of those principles on our own. Also, true Libertarians (I love the snootiness of that opening) do not necessarily emphasize the same issues as critical, do not generally hold party affiliations (including the “Libertarian Party”, which to many is a bit of an oxymoron) and view ourselves as a loose movement based on the Classic Anglo-American Liberal postulates embodied in the US Constitution, the Declaration and the Bill of Rights. To use a Biblical image, we Libertarians function as “salt” within the broader context of American society. Salt, despite Nanny Bloomberg’s prescription, is essential to keeping our nation on its original path as laid out by the truly “Greatest Generation”, but too much salt, or Libertarianism, can spoil the dish, and certainly wreck the average dinner party. Our core principles are individual freedom and liberty, strictly limited government (see Murray for a great discussion of this point), free enterprise capitalist economics, and the freedoms of association, speech, religion, communication, the right to keep and bear arms, and the other limitations on government embodied in Constitution and original Bill of Rights.

I reject this assertion based on this assertion.  You see, it is self-contradictory.  You cannot claim to agree to a loose set of common principles if every libertarian is then free to “interpret” those principles however he/she wishes. You might as well be claiming the right to spell words any way you wish, to assign whatever definitions to them you desire and to assert that 2+2=5 – until you decide it equals 76. When this happens, you have no common understanding, and without a common understanding, you have anarchy.  This is how progressives work: by so bastardizing the language, or the law, or whatever the issue is that no one can understand it.  In so doing, no one can find a standard or ideal by which to measure anything, thus, everything becomes as equal to one thing as the next.  Basically, it is deconstructionism and post-modernism and nihilism: the destructive nature of which Utah has written about quite often on the RNL.  But the point is, what you just asserted there is the very essence of anarchy.

Now, true anarchy is on the far right of the political continuum (at least in the sense of total vs. no government).  However, I do not agree with the early Natural Law theorists who hold that the State of Nature is the State of Natural Law.  I would argue that the State of Nature is the law of the jungle, and the law of the jungle equates to the strongest survives.  There can be no liberty under the Law of the Jungle; neither can there be liberty under Anarchy.  In essence, they are both the tyranny of the strongest.  This is why men enter into society: to protect their individual rights and liberty and to preserve and enforce Natural Law.  But there is a hitch to Natural Law: it is predicated on a common morality, and the notion of morality cannot exist outside of a Creator.  For morality to be morality, it must be universal.  And to be universal, it must be above the definitional control of man.  And for the law defining and governing morality to be above the control of man, it must have a source of authority higher than that of Natural Law.  This is the Creator.

This brings me to my last beef with libertarians, and that is their refusal to accept the fundamental necessity of a common morality in society, as well as society’s fundamental right to legislate the same.  Universal morality rests not on the most fundamental right to your life, but to your free will.  From there, Natural Law can easily be derived:

Defining Natural Right

Extrapolating Natural Rights

But the very notion of free will implies the necessity of a Creator:

Free Will: the First Principle of Natural Law

Rights Bubbles: the Origin of Universal Morality

Sadly, legislating morality is one of the primary areas where libertarians depart from our founders.  The founders were very clear that liberty depends on morality, and morality on religion.  You cannot preserve liberty without morality, and morality cannot exist without faith in the Creator.  Yet, somehow, libertarians miss this point, as evidenced by your Biblical reference to salt.  I’m not sure whether or not you know it, but that reference carries the understanding that Christ’s followers were to be salt by showing the need for morality through the way they lived their lives.  I understand you were trying to use it as a political analogy, but I find it interesting that you try to make something that is about morality into a political illustration.  I think it speaks straight to my point about libertarians not understanding the crucial role morality plays to maintaining a free and self-governing society where individual rights and liberty are preserved.   And this is why I say libertarians are just to the left of anarchists.

I would point out that the Articles of Confederation were very close to what I presume the modern libertarian ideal might be, and they failed.  It was not until the founders wrote the Constitution – which does allow for different communities to legislate morality – that the stability necessary for a free and self-governing society to thrive was established.  And if you bother to trace back through history, it was when this ability to legislate morality was removed that our nation started it slow march toward tyranny.

43 thoughts on “Critiquing the Modern American Libertarian Movement

  1. Charles David Edinger
    July 22, 2013 at 11:57 (Edit) Reply

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    Hi Joe…I’m coming in late to this discussion, but it is an interesting one and I marked it for comment while I was traveling last week. In the interest of full disclosure, I found my way into the tent of the Chosen, that being the Libertarian tribe, after wandering in the wilderness of “American Liberalism,” not to be confused with “Classic Anglo-American Liberalism,” for about 25-years. While I believe you and I have discussed the Libertarian/Liberal distinction before, I think the Zimmerman/Martin episode provides an interesting case for further discussion. By the way, while I was goofing off on vacation, I read, or reread, three interesting references that bear on these issues: Russell Kirk’s THE CONSERVATIVE MIND, Charles Murray’s WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A LIBERTARIAN and Friedrich Hayek’s essay, “WHY I AM NOT A CONSERVATIVE.” I highly recommend all three for a first, or second, or fifth reading.

    Part of our Libertarian charm is that most of us share a set of basic, clear principles, and then value the intellectual freedom to interpret the meaning of those principles on our own. Also, true Libertarians (I love the snootiness of that opening) do not necessarily emphasize the same issues as critical, do not generally hold party affiliations (including the “Libertarian Party”, which to many is a bit of an oxymoron) and view ourselves as a loose movement based on the Classic Anglo-American Liberal postulates embodied in the US Constitution, the Declaration and the Bill of Rights. To use a Biblical image, we Libertarians function as “salt” within the broader context of American society. Salt, despite Nanny Bloomberg’s prescription, is essential to keeping our nation on its original path as laid out by the truly “Greatest Generation”, but too much salt, or Libertarianism, can spoil the dish, and certainly wreck the average dinner party. Our core principles are individual freedom and liberty, strictly limited government (see Murray for a great discussion of this point), free enterprise capitalist economics, and the freedoms of association, speech, religion, communication, the right to keep and bear arms, and the other limitations on government embodied in Constitution and original Bill of Rights.

    The Martin/Zimmerman Case should pose no real conflicts for the “average Libertarian”, except that the average Libertarian doesn’t exist. George Zimmerman, acting in his capacity as a Neighborhood Watch Captain, or alternatively as a concerned citizen, had every right to follow an unfamiliar figure, Mr. Martin, who was wandering through Zimmerman’s recently burglarized gated community late at night and without an obvious reason for being there. As it turns out, Mr. Martin had a criminal record, which was suppressed at trial, and was dressed in a manner that concealed his identity, rendering Mr. Zimmerman’s concern at least legitimate, if not actually wise. While it is not absolutely certain who initially confronted whom on the night of the shooting, both Zimmerman and Martin had every right to “confront” each other verbally, as both had good reason to feel somewhat threatened, based on the circumstances. Since Libertarians basically view the whole idea of “profiling” as a synonym for “common sense”, neither party did anything illegal up to this point. What happened after the verbal confrontation takes us into an area where Libertarianism has a lot to say.

    Although it is impossible to state definitively, all the forensic, eye witness and cell phone evidence indicates that Martin then struck Zimmerman, breaking his nose and knocking him to the ground, a clear violation of Zimmerman’s right not to be subjected to violence by Martin. As a former amateur boxer, I can attest that a blow sufficiently strong to break Zimmerman’s nose would have been powerfully struck and would have probably taken Zimmerman by surprise, since anyone who had ever boxed or had basic self-defense training would have instinctively “slipped” the punch by moving away from the blow, both backwards and to the side away from the angle of the strike. Also, Martin’s initial strike, which broke Zimmerman’s nose and knocked him backwards onto his back, would have effectively incapacitated Zimmerman. At that point Martin would have had the option of walking, not running, away, from the smaller and weaker man he had just effectively, “sucker punched.” I know this from having had the personal experiences of a street kid growing up in Philadelphia and from having had been the intended victim of a mugging in Trenton, New Jersey several years ago. The rule of the street is strike first if there is any chance you may be over matched by your victim. As a kid I ended a number of discussions by striking my fellow discussant before he could hit me first, thus ending the dialogue precipitously, and the rather foolish fellow who attempted to sucker punch me in Trenton found that I slipped his attempt to cold cock me and leveled him with a left and a right, after which I sat on his chest until the gendarmes arrived. My point here is that Martin would have been in complete control after he broke Zimmerman’s nose, but for a second time he chose to pursue violence rather than walking away from the confrontation.

    As a Libertarian, what followed was a straight-forward violation of George Zimmerman’s most basic right, the right to safety in his own person. When one’s nose is broken violently, particularly if one has not experienced that painful sensation before, it has the effect of creating confusion and generally removes one’s interest in continuing any physical confrontation. Lying on the concrete with a broken nose and the fear that would have been in control of George Zimmerman’s mind, Zimmerman would likely have already been in fear for his life. When Trayvon Martin, already in complete control of the situation, made the decision to drop onto Zimmerman’s chest and begin what is commonly called a “beat-down”, it would have been clear to Zimmerman that Martin intended to seriously injure him and would show no quarter. Martin’s move to begin slamming Zimmerman’s defenseless head into the concrete represented an escalation of Martin’s violence, since a head bashing as he began to administer is not a cosmetic injury, it often results in brain damage and is always life threatening. At that point George Zimmerman would have no alternative to asserting his most basic human right, the right to protect his life from a stronger attacker who gave every appearance of determination to beat him senseless and possibly kill him. With some effort, Zimmerman drew his fully licensed hand gun and prevented Trayvon Martin from taking his life. Had Zimmerman not fired a single shot it is at least even money that George Zimmerman would have died on that sidewalk or suffered permanent brain damage that night. Zimmerman had every right to take the action he took, and by any form of Libertarian reasoning, Zimmerman’s action, while tragic, was either self-defense or justifiable homicide.

    I’m not certain what “Libertarian” arguments could be advanced to dispute the fact that George Zimmerman acted in complete accord with Libertarian principles, and I will appreciate any citations that will direct me to the blasphemies that you reference. We Libertarians are infinitely reasonable people, but our understanding of the inviolability of individual rights is an absolute within our short list of beliefs. I’m interested in your feedback. Cheers, CDE

    • Here’s your feedback, Charles. Like Joe, you fail to look at all the evidence. I am quoting here from Zimmerman’s interview with the Sanford PD on 2/29/12….

      1)..Serino: That’s why we’re here today. Once again, these can be interpreted as capillary-type cuts or whatever, lacerations, uh, not really, um, coinciding with being slammed hard into the ground. OK? That’s skull fractures is you happen with that. I’ve seen ‘em all, you know. Me, I reserve judgment because everybody’s built differently, your tolerance for pain might be different from mine, and anybody else’s and it wouldn’t be fair for me to go, I wasn’t there. I actively remain neutral here, OK? It’s kind of a good shoot, bad shoot type thing.
      Zimmerman: Yes, sir.
      2)…Serino: Had he been a goon, a bad kid, 2 thumbs up, you know. No, he don’t make, he don’t, he does not fit the profile of what occurred. Which is another, um, unfortunate thing that we got going on here.
      Singleton: Um, I still, I still don’t understand, when he walked up to your car, why didn’t you say anything to him?
      Zimmerman: I guess fear. I didn’t want to confront him. He seemed…
      Singleton: You were afraid of him?
      Zimmerman: Yes, ma’am.
      Singleton: Then does, do you say he ran?
      Zimmerman: Yes.

      Z failed to identify himself when he had the chance, and Trayvon ran from him!

      3)Serino: And the only thing that you don’t have is the authority to go ahead and do the stop legally. You follow, I mean…
      Zimmerman: Sure
      Serino: You’re working under the color of an absolutely private citizen.
      Zimmerman: Yes, sir.
      Serino: And, but then again, we can make citizens’ arrests all day long. I mean, for felonies. Problem was that this child wasn’t committing a felony at the time. He was just walking.

      This cop should have been the prosecutor! Had Z been put on the stand and asked these questions, he would be doing 5-15 right now.

  2. Joe: As I suspected I might, I find myself differing on a any number of critical points and I must say that you tend to make far too many unsupported statements to be taken seriously in terms of your overall argument. I should also mention that you’ve taken some unfortunate liberties by parsing my original comment in a manner that was not intended. This reminds me somewhat of an misguided approach to Biblical interpretation that I encountered in my now distant youth called “proof-texting”. It is common among Fundamentalists and some Evangelicals to examine Biblical texts without keeping the passages in context, hence the original meaning is generally distorted, and if one is someone who accepts the notion of “Biblical inerrancy”, it is especially dangerous since the out-of-context verses are often used to support arguments that are unsound. “Christians” who handle dangerous snakes and others who practice polygamy all justify their bizarre practices by cutting and pasting the Christian scriptures in inappropriate ways. Having learned Koine Greek so that I could read the New Testament with great care, I find eisegesis to be unfortunate, and although I enjoy exchanging ideas with you Joe, I think that’s what you’ve done with my comment.

    For starters, my comment was not written or intended to be a general statement on Libertarian principles, although my introduction to my main point did catch them pretty well. Libertarians are independent thinkers and we resist any attempts to force us to conform to someone else’s moral or ethical standards. As I stated, Libertarian principles do not represent a moral code because we believe each mature, thinking human being should be responsible for finding and following his or her own sense of right and wrong, once the discussion moves beyond this very basic notion: I am responsible for myself and I am free to act as I please as long as my freedom does not impinge on the freedom of another. There is no room in Libertarianism for proscriptive morality, nor for the use of coercive force by an individual, group or government to control the behavior, speech, associations or actions of another, as long as those actions do not injure or impinge on the other’s freedoms. Our Libertarian principles are the current development of the Classic Anglo-American Liberalism which produced the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the first ten articles of the Bill of Rights. If one were to explore backward through Western History, Libertarianism has even deeper roots, in that that gradual devolution of authority from the Roman emperors to the Roman Popes to the kings of the nations that emerged at the conclusion of the Middle Ages to the Protestant Reformers, to the Aristocracy in the Magna Carta and then ultimately to the individual citizen at the beginning of the American idea. I will be delighted to continue our discussion with a fuller explanation of Libertarianism at a later point, since I cannot recognize my own beliefs in your “critique” and I find that unfortunate.

    My remarks dealt only with the original proposition in your initial post. You stated that some Libertarians had found fault with the “Not Guilty” verdict in the Martin Murder Trial and my comment addressed that statement and that statement alone. Once I demolished the idea that any Libertarian could have found fault with George Zimmerman’s actions on the night of Martin’s death, I requested the citations of the Libertarian arguments you had referenced. Unless I’m missing something I don’t think I have seen those quotes or citations yet and I would like to see how anyone purporting to hold Libertarian beliefs could have disputed the Martin verdict.

    While exaggeration may be an effective rhetorical tool in a political debate, I regard TRNL as a marketplace of ideas and I don’t think it advances the discussion to make bizarre statements such as stating that “Libertarians are actually greedy Liberals.” Libertarianism is diametrically opposed to the whole Liberal/Progressive movement and we are generally the intellectual special forces in taking the fight to the Collectivist hordes. Please understand how wrong your statement is to anyone who has taken the time to study the intellectual roots of both Libertarianism and Collectivism in all its forms. I’d enjoy continuing our discussion, but I strongly suggest we commit to minimizing any hyperbole going forward. Cheers.

  3. CDE,

    I disagree with your assertion that I am reading Scripture out of context. That passage where Christ mentions salt does seem to refer to the example His followers are intended to set through the way they live. It also mentions that, if salt loses its saltiness, it is of no use. As I understand the entire passage and the message Christ was trying to convey, this means that, if His followers leave His proper teachings, they are no longer of any use to the Kingdom of God and God’s work. So, if you think I have taken that out of context, please show me where I am wrong, not launch on a tangent and pretend you made a point. I think that is also a fallacy 😉

    As for you assertion that I have made a series of unsupported assertion: please show me where and why you believe this to be the case.

    Next, you say:

    “Our Libertarian principles are the current development of the Classic Anglo-American Liberalism which produced the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the first ten articles of the Bill of Rights. “

    I disagree — strongly. I have already told you why, which means this is not unsupported. But for you to declare that morality is not in the realm of social control and then claim the founders’ mantle speaks directly to my assertion. In fact, I think it confirms it:

    “Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
    –John Adams, October 11, 1798

    “The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a great Measure, than they have it now. They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.”
    –John Adams, letter to Zabdiel Adams, June 21, 1776

    “A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy…. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader…. If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.”
    –Samuel Adams

    “A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district – all studied and appreciated as they merit – are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.”
    –Benjamin Franklin, in a letter dated March 1778 to the Ministry of France

    “It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor. A degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats to the heart of its laws and constitution.”
    –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia Query 19, 1781

    I can continue this, but I believe this should be enough to make the point. Now, if I accept the Libertarian argument that each person should be free to set their own morality “so long as they do not harm people,” then I have STILL set the stage for anarchy. I know you disagree, but then, you do not see the contradiction in the libertarian stance. Suppose you try to put an atheist, a Christian and a Muslim in a “society” together. The Christian should try to teach them the Gospel, and in doing so, they will think they are doing the other two a service — not a harm. The Muslim will either force the other two to convert, pay the dhimmi tax or kill them — and he will think he is performing a service for them. As for the Atheist, he is a lose cannon: there is no telling what he may do or how he may interpret his actions in regard tot he others. HOWEVER, if he is actually true to his espoused beliefs, he is likely to kill the other two because he does not care about harming others as he doesn’t believe in morality, only his “personal ethic.”

    Next, you said this:

    “My remarks dealt only with the original proposition in your initial post. You stated that some Libertarians had found fault with the “Not Guilty” verdict in the Martin Murder Trial and my comment addressed that statement and that statement alone. Once I demolished the idea that any Libertarian could have found fault with George Zimmerman’s actions on the night of Martin’s death, I requested the citations of the Libertarian arguments you had referenced.”

    I’m sorry, but you did NOT “demolish” anything. In fact, you granted me my argument by saying that a Libertarian “interprets” for himself. So how can you make a blanket assertion such as this without purporting to speak for all libertarians, or to claim there is a set definition? Did you not say this, too?


    “For starters, my comment was not written or intended to be a general statement on Libertarian principles, although my introduction to my main point did catch them pretty well. Libertarians are independent thinkers and we resist any attempts to force us to conform to someone else’s moral or ethical standards.”

    Do you not see the inconsistencies and contradictions in your position? For you to assert I am wrong, you have to admit your assertions are wrong, which then beggs the question: if you are wrong, how do you know I am wrong? Whether you want to recognize it or not, this is the internal problem with libertarianism, and it is why the Articles of Confederation failed: because they tried to make the libertarian ideal work in the real world. It doesn’t work anymore than the collectivist model..

    As for the arguments you wanted me to post, I actually mentioned where to find some of them in the comment section of the original thread. Did you not see that? If not, ask RNL reader Steven Hough (sp?). He claims to be a libertarian and he was all over FB complaining that Zimmerman “got away with it.” But I can assure you: as a philosophy major, I became quite familiar with Libertarians. I respect those few who actually think, though I still disagree with them. And it was from that intimate relationship with myt fellow students that I can to understand they asserted an incoherent and contradictory ideology. You see, by your own admission, you cannot assert that a libertarian would or wouldn’t believe anything without asserting your will on them, and this is why I have a problem with the libertarian movement. It is internally contradictory.

    Now, at this point, step back and understand that you have come in to a long-running conversation where I am concerned, so you likely do not know everything I have said about Libertarians. I know them well, and this is why I have said the majority are exactly as I assert. HOWEVER, I have also said there are those few — those very few, such as you appear to be — who do understand their ideology. This is why you do not see yourself in my description of libertarians, but then, you have already granted me the possibility of my argument by telling me that libertarians all want to be left alone to define themselves their own way. This is more a characteristic of the Left and the Anarchist as it is a militant insistence of the right to alter, deny or redefine reality. BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN I AM YOUR ENEMY! I am an ally of those Libertarians who understand and seek the principles of liberty, it’s just that I have found so few of them.

  4. Hmmm, I interpreted Charles’ comment in a completely different way. For instance, his opening sentence seemed to get your panties in a wad: “Part of our Libertarian charm is that most of us share a set of basic, clear principles, and then value the intellectual freedom to interpret the meaning of those principles on our own.” Whereas you view this as contradictory, I view it as free will. Especially since he followed it up with this: “……and view ourselves as a loose movement based on the Classic Anglo-American Liberal postulates embodied in the US Constitution, the Declaration and the Bill of Rights.” I would proffer that these are the principles to which the libertarian basis his interpretation.

    Next you saw sweet Charles’ Biblical reference to salt in a different light than I: “Salt, despite Nanny Bloomberg’s prescription, is essential to keeping our nation on its original path as laid out by the truly “Greatest Generation”, but too much salt, or Libertarianism, can spoil the dish, and certainly wreck the average dinner party.” Where you viewed it, in my opinion, as the lack of morality (Christians being the salt of the earth) I viewed it as not forcing one’s will upon another; thus the Bloomberg and political party references.

    • Kells,

      yes, I “got my panties in a wad” because he started by illustrating one of my chief complaints with Libertarians: they hold a self-contradicting ideology. then they try to claim the mantle of our founders. They no more hold the mantle of our founders than the Progressives or Conservatives.

      As for not forcing one’s will on another: you know bloody well — or you should — that I oppose the forcing of one’s will on another as well, but only where it violates Natural Law. By definition, the very existence of society REQUIRES the forcing of will on others. It’s just that that forcing must conform to Natural Law. HOWEVER, if I am to allow everyone to determine that for themselves, then there is no way to maintain Natural Law or society, and that means no way to maintain liberty or preserve rights. And this is where the libertarian ideology falls apart — exactly like it did under the Articles of Confederation.

      I do find it interesting that my libertarian friends always ignore these points. 🙂

        • Kells spells out an important Point. A point linked Vitally to the 1st Amendment.

          And your ( Joe’s) response to her is correct also, except Kells wasn’t remarking on reductio ad absurdum arguments.

          However a Cat can Marry a Dog now ….right?…..that’s what the SC ruled….that Califorbia can’t stop a Cat from Marrying a Dog or verser visa…like whatever.

  5. Joe/Kells: This is the kind of jolly exchange I hoped for with my original comment. I’m up to my nose with various interesting business-related meetings today, but will be delighted to respond to any and all arrows and slings this evening. BTW, you can defend me anytime Kells. Your elucidations of my original points are helpful, although I think that ultimately Joe and I will find we actually differ on the substance of certain issues, rather than merely the verbiage. I’m not certain, but I’m beginning to have my suspicions. We’ll see tonight.

    One thing we should clarify is that I tend to argue in analogies, while I find your preference to be to stick to the very concrete. My comment about your Biblical interpretation methodology was not about the Bible, but was rather about the way you parsed my early post, which I found distorted my intended meaning. We can discuss the concepts of exegesis versus eisegesis at some point, but I get bitchy when my own words are recast to convey a meaning I did not intend. I suspect you do as well. Second, I quickly noted your quotes from the “Founders” seem to cluster around John Adams. I’ve read Adams, his wife and son fairly extensively and I’ve concluded that if our glorious revolution depended on the Adams family, we would all be playing cricket, drinking warm beer and eating dreadful food. Franklin was my favorite “Founder” and I think his ideas drove the Declaration and the Constitution, even when he wasn’t physically present at particular meetings. Jefferson, Madison and Jay are other my next best group. So, Joe, if you are an Adams man and I’m a Franklin/Jefferson guy, I think are references to the “Founders” may be quite different. Again, we’ll see. I have to go for now. Thanks to all for such good discussions. CDE

    • CDE,

      I share your disdain for those who twist my words, as well, so I will allow that I may have taken them in a manner other than the way you intended them. HOWEVER, I have always held that the writer is responsible for the majority of misunderstandings, and I hold myself to that same standard. So I would also assert that I may have taken your words different from your intention because of the fuller context of how you used them. Fair enough? 🙂

      Adams is often called the Atlas of the Revolution, so I find your take interesting as it appears to be in opposition to history. had it not been for John AND Samuel, we probably wouldn’t have had a revolution. That said, I noted you dismissed my Franklin quote, as well as the one I used from Jefferson. However, if you’d like, I can post others from Rush, Henry, Madison and many others that all express the same sentiment. So why not address the point I made instead of trying to pick it apart based on the man? (a fallacy, by the way) 😉

      As for Franklin driving the Declaration — I disagree. Jefferson merely adopted something he had written years earlier to apply to the nation rather than his State. Even then, the Declaration owes more to John Locke and Cook than Franklin. As for the Constitution: Franklin played a larger role there, but more as the lubricant that allowed the process to proceed than the driving force behind the ideas. I’ve read Madison’s notes on the convention and the Constitution was most definitely a product of committee.

      Finally, if you want me to nail myself down to men, I would say I am a cross between Jefferson and Henry. Let’s see what you make of that 🙂

    • CDE,

      Go back to the Zimmerman post where you and I started this exchange and read the comments by Steve. He is just one of the self-professed “libertarians” who caused me to write the original post. he is illustrating my point — and doing it very well. 🙂

      • I realize this is an exchange between you and Chuck……but Chuck being Irish he’ll understand my stepping into a “private fight…err discussion”.

        But I think one of your (Joe’s) major points has been Proved by one of Chuck’s own comments….to wit …”…..In the interest of full disclosure, I found my way into the tent of the Chosen, that being the Libertarian tribe, after wandering in the wilderness of “American Liberalism,” …..”.

        Nuff said….. ;- )).

  6. Morality doesn’t even exists. The current debate on this page is between two advocates of different morality. One believes in absooute freedom and the other believes in a freedom within their own limits of personal morality. Sadly they believe their morality is a law of nature and anything outside of it is evil.

    • Karl,

      You make moral assertions all the time: you just refuse to call them what they are. This is indicative of your adherence to the work of a third-rate mind — MARX!

      • such as what? Anyways you are ridiculous in trying to create a world where your morality reigns, especially when the majority disagrees.

          • I’m not appealing to the majority. I’m just stating that it is difficult for one man to rule without the backing of the masses. you don’t base your argument in fact and actual social conditions, but on your own interpretation of the bible and philosophers. You make an appeal to go, philosophers and of course yourself.

            Just accept it, natural law originates not from reality but what joe thinks reality should be.Uou cherry pick your inspiration to create your own vision of morality. the bible one of your most important documents says you can buy slaves, and Thomas Jefferson also had slaves. by attacking slavery you are an (sarcasm)apostate/infidel/nonbeliever/turncoat., so I as a the true prophet of the laws of nature am having you excommunicated(sarcasm)

            • *You make an appeal to god, philosophers and of course yourself.
              *.You cherry pick your inspiration to create your own vision of morality.

  7. Hi Joe….I’m in between meetings, but wanted to let you know that’s been my problem all day. I missed your Franklin and Jefferson quotes because I was scanning rather than reading at that point. I’ll pay attention to everything later tonight. Cheers, CDE

    • CDE,

      No worries. I understand. I run my own shop (1-man show), so I understand having to make wealth for Obama to steal before you can attend to your own life/needs 😉

  8. Since it is hard to determine the best place to reenter this thread, I’m jumping in here and will try to respond effectively to what appears to be a target-rich environment. First, I have no brief for defending or explaining the views of libertarians who have a less than complete understanding of basic libertarian principles. As I stated earlier, libertarians have a very readily understandable set of core values. Individual freedom and liberty represent the highest value to libertarians, since every other proposition, action and policy is evaluated based on its impact individual freedom and liberty. Actions or laws that reduce or threaten individual freedom or liberty are rejected. Setting individual freedom and liberty as our ultimate values, libertarians embrace a series of related rights which tend to be essential in securing and protecting our central values. These are to a fair degree enumerated in Americans founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the first ten amendments, commonly called the Bill of Rights. Our clearly established Constitutional rights include the freedoms of religion, association, communication (freedom of the press), speech (in all its forms), the right to keep and bear arms, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom from self-incrimination, freedom from government seizure of our property without fair compensation (under the “Takings clause”) and freedom from the Federal government assuming powers that go beyond those enumerated in the Constitution. The related item that we embrace in terms of government is that of divided government, since libertarians accept the proven theory that the concentration of political power in one person, group or government entity will inevitably result in the diminution of individual freedom in any society in which such unchecked power is permitted to develop and grow. This means we reject the Progressive doctrine of the perfectibility of human beings or society within the material world in which we dwell. In terms of restrictions or laws limiting other exercises of our individual freedom to live and act as we please, libertarians embrace a simple rule that a mature adult’s exercise of his or her individual freedom of thought, speech or action is limited only by the proviso that one person’s freedom may not impose or limit the freedom of another. Libertarians view free enterprise capitalism and a market-based economic system, as those are the only economic policies which have ever allowed individual freedom to prosper and grow strongly embedded in a society. We completely reject all government controlled or “planned” economic systems, as they tend to limit individual freedom and liberty.

    Among the things that attracted my original interest in libertarianism is the complete consistency of its tenets and the explicit view of human beings as responsible, thinking creatures capable of understanding and following the basic set of policies I outlined above. We do not view the role of any society or state as being to define what actions or ideas are acceptable and permissible, nor to utilize the coercive power of the state to enforce what one group within society thinks is “right” in their eyes. In a libertarian world, each individual citizen has the freedom to live his own life, and the government’s coercive power may only be used to prevent the use of violence, threats or fraud by one citizen against another. As a sometime Biblical scholar in the distant days of my youth and someone who still views religion as an essential part of life, the simplicity of the libertarian’s standard of behavior parallels what I regard the most profound teachings of both Jesus of Nazareth and Rabbi Hillel. When asked to identify the greatest of the Hebrews’ hundreds of commandments, Jesus stated, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, and the second is like unto it…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Elsewhere Jesus stated, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Hillel voiced a similar priority for Jewish behavior, “Do nothing to your neighbor that you would not want done unto you.” Basic principles of morality are much more effective than detailed legal codes which always diminish the freedom of the subjects held captive by the tyranny of the majority in any society.

    The hour is getting late, so I will try to answer some of the more confused statements made about my earlier posts. Libertarianism is the ultimate intellectual foe of Collectivism, which has traveled under the names of Progressivism and Liberalism in America over the 150-years. While libertarians are free-market capitalists economically, we are not any greedier than anyone else. To call America’s Founders libertarians would be anachronistic, in that libertarianism did not acquire its current name until the 20th century, when the Progressives, tried to re-christen themselves after their numerous policy failures required them to acquire a new identity. The Progressives chose to rename themselves the “Liberal movement”, in the process attempting to confuse their Collectivist materialism with the 18th century’s Classic Anglo-American Liberalism, which powerfully influenced America’s Founders in their policies and in the documents they developed to create and guard our freedoms. The Liberal/Progressives held sway in America for the first half of the 20th century, but their economic and social policies were unmitigated disasters and a resurgence of Classic Anglo-American Liberalism began taking shape in the the 1950’s and 1960’s. With our original name pilfered by the Liberal/Progressives, thinkers like Hayek, Friedman, Buckley, Sowell, and Murray, among many others, accepted “libertarianism” as a flag to fly under. Being eminently reasonable people, we libertarians make no exclusive claims to the Founders or to the documents they created, but we completely accept the ideas and policies of the Founders as our own. Although there is a Libertarian Party, most of us choose to vote with the major US party that comes closest to the values we share with America’s Founders. While both major US parties have been disappointing in recent years, our intellectual enemies the Progressives have largely taken over the Democrat Party today, and the GOP has begun to re-embrace many libertarian ideas and individual libertarian politicians like Rand Paul. I’ll be happy to address other feedback as it arrives, but it has gotten too late for me to pontificate further tonight.

    • CDE,

      “Being eminently reasonable people, we libertarians make no exclusive claims to the Founders or to the documents they created, but we completely accept the ideas and policies of the Founders as our own.”

      How can you say this after you have claimed that govt. has no right to legislate morality? Or that there should be no limitation to personal freedoms? The founders said that both were necessary and proper to the maintenance of a free and self=-governing society. Patrick Henry was as close to a modern Libertarian as we can come with the founders, and many of his objections to the Constitution would fit in well with Libertarian thinking today, but even Henry recognized the need for morality and the right of society to govern it. I guess you’ll just have to excuse my objection to your claims based on the grounds that you are making an assertion to which the founders clearly objected.

      Which then brings me to wonder: What do you mean by “eminently reasonable?” Reason does not allow for contradiction or demonstrably false assertions.

      • Joe…I’m in the middle of another crazy day, moving between meeings in Manhattan and Fairfield County and back, so I don’t have time to answer the substance of your attacks, which I can no longer view as points of well intentioned discussion. I’ve never knowingly made a contradictory or demonstrably false assertion in my adult life, and having reviewed my posts in this thread, that continues to be the case. You may want to recalibrate your declarative statements a bit, maybe to something like, “I do not understand …, ” and ask for further clarification, which I will be more than happy to provide. Also, while it appears you may not realize it, your statements attacking my views are unclear and not obviously connected to my comments. I find your statements to be unsubstantiated and it often appears that I’m receiving something like “talking points” about libertarianism’s faults, rather than reasoned arguments supported by actual facts rather than by your or someone else’s opinions. You and the Adams family are certainly entitled to your own interpretations of facts and ideas, but those do constitute opinions rather than actual facts. Since I am a libertarian who happens to be very well acquainted with our movement’s history and principles, the fact that you know people who represent themselves as libertarians, but whose comments violate the key elements of what we libertarians actually think, does not mean I need to either support or debunk the claims of the philosophically ignorant. I’d like to continue our exchanges because I think you appear to be a thoughtful fellow, but let’s try to take to shoot for less heat and more light going forward. Regards, CDE

        • CDE<

          So you are saying that, if I do not speak in the way YOU want me to, you consider my assertions "unsupported?" You do not understand logic very well, do you?

          So you say that, unless they agree with what YOU say they must, a person cannot claim to be a Libertarian? You just confirmed 2 of my assertions — both of which you claim are unsupported. Well, YOU, sir, are my support (ty) 🙂

          As for your insistence that I am standing with Adams, that is further support of my assertion that you do not understand logic. In this case, it is called straw man and special case. Unless, of course, you mean the Adams family from Munster fame, in which case that is ad hominem and you STILL make my point. Thanks again.

          You may be "very well acquainted" with the Libertarian movement, but so am I. I hold a BA in philosophy. The Dean of my department was a Libertarian, as was my only "real" friend among the students in the department. I understand Libertarians very well, which is why I take issues with them. It is also why I know that I am not standing on "unsupported ground." When the Dean of my department — a Doctor of philosophy and Libertarian — tells me that my attacks are valid, and that he has no answer to them, I will take his word over yours. If you do not like that, I can't help that. It's just the way things are going to be.

          Now, I will be happy to continue this discussion, but you are going to have to accept something first. I am not shooting for heat. I'm not upset. I am not "emotional." I don't often get that way, and when I do, you'll know it. You'll have no doubt, trust me 🙂

          That said, you might want to "recalibrate" your own comments as you have been making nothing but contradictory statements since this started. You just did it again by now claiming that there are hard and fast rules that "true libertarians" cannot think "outside" of if they want to meet YOUR definition of Libertarian. Earlier, you said there were no hard and fast rules. In fact, your position seems to shift every time I challenge it. This is why I am questioning the consistency of your personal ideology — as well as your ability to look at it in a critical manner. Having had to stand up to peer examination of my views many times, I can assure you, my position is well thought out, coherent, consistent and it has been critically examined by myself as well as every professor and student in the department I attended.

            • Kells,

              CDE has said that Libertarians are free thinkers. He has said they do not have a set ideology. he has said he cannot speak for them. And he said that trying to force his view on others would be contrary to libertarian ideology.

              He has also said that there are set parameters one must believe to be a Libertarian, and if you do not hold those beliefs, you cannot be a libertarian.

              All I have been doing is pointing out that these are self-contradicting assertions. He’s made several of these. He has also claimed I have made unsupported assertions while ignoring my support and — in at least one case — admitting he “missed” it. Now he is telling me how I have to speak to him so he won’t be offended.

              This is why I do not like the Libertarian ideology: because this is typical of most libertarians I have even known — including Ron Paul.

              • He did not say that, and you are twisting his words. I know the Libertarians you are talking about, but they do not base their principles on the Dec., Const., or Bill of Rights. You know damn well that Ron Paul does.

                • Kells,

                  CDE most certainly DID say it:

                  Part of our Libertarian charm is that most of us share a set of basic, clear principles, and then value the intellectual freedom to interpret the meaning of those principles on our own. Also, true Libertarians (I love the snootiness of that opening) do not necessarily emphasize the same issues as critical, do not generally hold party affiliations (including the “Libertarian Party”, which to many is a bit of an oxymoron) and view ourselves as a loose movement based on the Classic Anglo-American Liberal postulates embodied in the US Constitution, the Declaration and the Bill of Rights.”

                  Honestly, how does one have a conversation with someone who denies what is in black & white for them to read?

                  Kells, a person who embodies the principles and ideals embodied in the Declaration and Constitution is NOT a “Libertarian,” they are a CLASSIC LIBERAL!

                  A person who wants to claim the principles and ideals of the Declaration and Constitution DIVORCED FROM THE RELIGIOUS ASPECTS UPON WHICH THEY ARE FOUNDED is a “Libertarian.”

                    • Kells,

                      Now THAT is an oversimplification of the position most Libertarians hold. And it isn’t so much religion that is the issue as society’s right to legislate morality. Religion is involved because it is necessary to the establishment and maintenance of societal norms. Most every Libertarian I have ever met objects to society legislating morality, and that is what opens the door to the rest of my objections to the libertarian ideology. Without the ability to legislate morality, there can be no assertion of rights and no claim to liberty.

          • Hi Joe…Let’s begin with where your argument appears to have arrived, since you favor yourself a logician. You are now providing the “argument from authority”, which is generally the final step before capitulation in this type of argument. In arriving at this point you have repeatedly attacked my clear, simple statements with another logical tool that I generally avoid, the reduction to the absurd. As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t really argue the libertarian philosophy’s core values based on my opinions, since I’m certainly not the final arbiter of libertarian thought. What you’ve heard from me has been derived from the giants of the libertarian movement: Smith, Hayek, Murray, Friedman, Buckley, Sowell, and others, and from our forebears, the Classic Anglo-American Liberals like Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, deTocqueville, and others who worked in the shadows during the times when the Collectivists captured the philosophical high ground for 150-years. I’m sure your professor was a great teacher. I was a university professor, dean and provost for 30-years before discovering how much I enjoyed starting and building business enterprises and I have now descended deep into the pits of mammon, as I primarily create and build wealth for my clients and myself. So we’ve all done a lot of interesting stuff.

            I appreciated your willingness to share your own experience as an undergraduate Philosophy major, although I must question how an undergraduate student, whatever the major field of study, could have debated a PhD Philosopher, who held libertarian views, to the point where the professor conceded his positions were indefensible. As a college freshman my first essay prize was for an essay titled “The Right to Preempt Private Property for the Public Good (Specifically: Progressive Taxation) From the Viewpoint of Jeremy Bentham and the British Utilitarians,” which won what is now the Gordon College Philosophy Prize for 1972. While I was certainly an obnoxious and overconfident debater on all sorts of issues at that stage of my life, I can’t imagine my having the ability to defeat any of my three mentors of that period, Dr. Carlton Gregory, Dr. Rachel Hadley King or Dr. Diogenes Allen, who was by the way a Rhodes Scholar. So you are to be congratulated on your early precociousness in debate.

            At this point I have frankly lost interest in trying to respond to specific issues among your multiple attacks on my various comments, all of which have thus far attempted to dispute points that I had not made. That’s fine and it happens. As Wittgenstein and others have demonstrated, words can be notoriously difficult to use with clarity. I haven’t appreciated your repeated statements that my thoroughly documented statements are somehow “contradictory,” without identifying the supposed contradictions. And intended or not, some of your posts have descended into ad hominem attacks, which really take us nowhere. As a last attempt to summarize the points I have made repeatedly, I’ve provided a basic outline below:

            1. There is no libertarian case for disputing the innocent verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case – this is where we started. My detailed analysis of the circumstances of the Martin – Zimmerman encounter demonstrated that George Zimmerman acted to preserve his own life from Martin’s blows, which had broken his nose and knocked Zimmerman to the ground, after which eye-witness testimony confirmed that Martin was pounding Zimmerman’s head onto the concrete sidewalk. Under libertarian doctrine, every human being has the freedom to make his or her own life decisions and violence in the form of physical coercion is not permitted by either the government or other humans. Thus Martin’s attempt to injure Zimmerman created a situation where Zimmerman had a clear right to protect his own life. I have yet to read or hear a libertarian case for disputing the verdict that George Zimmerman was “Not Guilty” of either 2nd degree murder or manslaughter.

            2. Libertarianism is an economic and political philosophy that embraces individual freedom and liberty as the standard against which all actions, laws and policies must be measured to confirm or reject their validity. For libertarians, laws or policies which reduce or impinge upon individual freedom and liberty must be categorically rejected, since there is no higher value than the freedom and liberty of individual human beings. Since all societies find it necessary to create and enforce laws and rules to govern the relationships between individuals and between individuals and the government, for libertarians the question of how proposed laws should be vetted prior to implementation turns completely on whether the law will diminish individual freedom.

            3. Libertarians embrace the values espoused by the Classic Anglo-American Liberals of the 18th century, and view the philosophy and doctrines delineated in the founding documents that created the United States of America, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as completely consistent with both Classic Anglo-American Liberalism of the 18th century and the libertarian movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. Libertarians also accept the writings and thinking of 18th century Liberals such as Smith, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and de Tocqueville as our foundational documents.

            4. During the mid-19th century through the mid-20th, various forms of Collectivism emerged in North America, Europe and Asia and gained broad acceptance among the academic, government and intellectual classes of those societies. Collectivism took various forms, including Socialism in Britain and France, Fascism in Spain and Italy, Nazism in Germany, Communism in Russia and China and Progressivism in the US. Classic Anglo-American Liberalism ceased to be a strong political or intellectual movement in America, although it never completely disappeared. After Progressivism experienced wide-spread rejection as a result of policies like Prohibition, progressive taxation and others, Progressivism rebranded itself as “Liberalism” in the 1920’s, attempting to connect the policies of the Progressive movement with America’s Founders, who were still known as “Liberals” in many circles and whose ideals had constituted Classic Anglo-American Liberalism.

            5. After Liberal/Progressive policies exacerbated the impact of the Great Depression of the 1930’s and delayed several budding recoveries, the US economy finally recovered due to the industrial revitalization required to support America’s entry into WW II. After the war in late forties and early fifties, Classic Anglo-American Liberalism experienced a recovery as an intellectual movement, largely in response to Liberal/Progressivism’s weak response to growing international Communism, based initially in the Soviet Union. Austrian School economists like von Mises and Hayek joined with University of Chicago economists like Friedman to challenge the failing economic policies of both Marxism and Liberal/Progressivism. Social thinkers like Buckley, Sowell, and Murray began studying and reporting the disastrous impacts of Collectivists economic and social policies to an often unbelieving American public. With the old “Liberal” brand having been pilfered by the Progressives, the growing band of brilliant new “Classic Liberal” thinkers adopted the name “libertarian” to stress their strong ties to the 18th century Liberals.

            Joe, while you rightly insist that America’s Founders are rightly viewed as “Classic Anglo-American Liberals,” I think you are mistaken in insisting there are not strong philosophical links between today’s libertarians and the 18th century Liberals. Libertarians like myself acknowledge our debt to Franklin, Jefferson and the rest, and a review of the writings of the leading lights of today’s libertarianism, including Friedman, Hayek, von Mises, Sowell, Murray, and the rest, reveals a very clear continuity of ideas and principles. No actively practiced political philosophy can remain the exactly the same over 200+ years, but the libertarian movement of today is clearly the only active and vibrant school of thought active today that has clear intellectual ties to the Classic Anglo-American Liberal School. As a thought exercise to prove my point here, can you name one major thinker or writer today who identifies him or herself as a “Classic Anglo-American Liberal”? I’ve thought about the question and I can’t identify one such thinker.

            So conclude my comments on this issue. I’ve enjoyed the many contributions to this thread and I thank Joe for his original post. Cheers, CDE

  9. Karl, by your own reasoning you do the very thing you accuse Joe of doing by concluding “the bible one of your most important documents says you can buy slaves”. The Bible doesn’t actually say “you can own slaves”, nor is it permissible about owning slaves. You arrived at your own conclusion by probably Googling “Richard Dawkins quotes”, and reading the slavery scriptures he references at face value. You probably then Googled one of those scriptures, and applied it to your own form of vague anti-religious reasoning. The bottom line is, you don’t have the faintest idea about what the Bible actually says. I would recommend that you don’t actually read the Bible. Doing so would only cripple your obviously twisted worldview, even more.

    You sir, are a hypocrite.

  10. Pingback: I Should Have Checked Wiki before Critiquing Libertarianism | The Rio Norte Line

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