Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Libertarianism Is Not About Being "Fiscally Conservative and Socially Liberal"

By Robert Wenzel

The Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, has adopted the horrific mantra "Libertarianism is about being fiscally conservative and socially liberal."

Libertarianism is no such thing. Libertarianism is about "radical freedom from government."

"Fiscally conservative" in no way reflects the radicalness of the libertarian desire for freedom from government.

It is noteworthy to consider the Wikipedia entry for "fiscal conservative":
Fiscal conservatism is a political-economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt.
This explanation of fiscal conservative is probably a good working explanation that reflects what people think about when hearing the term. Let's consider how far away this is from radical freedom from government.

Nowhere in the definition do we find what is meant by low taxes.  I don't want to get into the debate, here, with regard to no-government libertarians and extremely limited government libertarians, but the term "fiscal conservative" in no way reflects the radical nature of what either such libertarian groups would consider "low taxes." I would suggest for starters an income tax rate of 1% is a low tax, where over time it could be cut down to more reasonable levels.

The idea of government debt is repulsive to a radical freedom lover. As a starting point in cutting government down to size, a true libertarian would call for the immediate default on all outstanding government debt and the prohibition of government ever issuing debt again.

Are any of these radical freedom positions reflected in the term "fiscal conservative"? Absolutely not, in fact, the term does nothing but suggest tweaking the system at the edges. To a true libertarian, it is calling for nothing but an aspirin taking regime in a battle against cancer.

As for the term "socially liberal." It is even more repulsive than "fiscal conservative."

Let us turn once again to Wikipedia to get a sense for how the term is generally viewed:
Social a political ideology that seeks to find a balance between individual liberty and social justice.
How horrific!

The great Nobel prize winner F.A. Hayek  wrote in Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 2: The Mirage of Social Justice:
It is not only by encouraging malevolent and harmful prejudices that the cult of 'social justice' tends to destroy genuine moral feelings. It also comes, particularly in its more egalitarian forms, into constant conflict with some of the basic moral principles on which any community of free men must rest. This becomes evident when we reflect that the demand that we should equally esteem all our fellow men is irreconcilable with the fact that our whole moral code rests on the approval or disapproval of the conduct of others; and that's similarly the traditional postulate that each capable adult is primarily responsible for his own and his dependents' welfare, meaning that he must not through his own fault become a charge to his friends or fellows, is incompatible with the idea that 'society' or government owes each person an appropriate income.
In this day and age, social liberal advocates  also demand that all curtesy to certain "victim" groups, e.g. gays, transgenders and blacks.

This is why Johnson came down in favor of coercing bakers to bake cakes for gays. He, when all is said and done, is a social justice warrior.

This, of course, flies in the face of radical freedom. where in a world of radical freedom one would be free to love or hate gays, blacks, blondes or those wearing tattoos, to say, on one's own property (or where permitted by another property owner) anything pro or anti  gays, blacks, blondes or those wearing tattoos . Or be free to permit or ban anyone, for any reason, from one's own property, including from diners, buses or hotels---and be allowed to serve on one's own property anyone one chooses to serve.

This is radical freedom. This is libertarianism.

Gary Johnson is a fraud when it comes to advocating true libertarianism. He must be used as a foil by true radical freedom lovers. He must be intellectually attacked mercilessly for his misleading characterization of libertarianism and exposed for the statist hugger that he is.

Liberty isn't at the root of the term libertarianism because it is a sometimes option. It is an always, and only, option within the framework of a private property society.

This is the message that must get out. Radical freedom forever!

 Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher at and at Target Liberty. He is also author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics. His linked page is here. His San Francisco Review of Books essays are here.


  1. Gary Johnson stands first and foremost for boring. If you are having trouble sleeping, or if you feel like you have too much amusement in your life, please watch a Gary Johnson (yawnnnnnnnnnnnnn) youtube video.

  2. Radical freedom? Isn't that merely ACTUAL freedom?

  3. I consider myself a classical liberal. It's based on property rights.

  4. Wenzel is a day late and a dollar short in bringing this up. This phrasing or something similar has been going around in the LP for some years and to bring it up now and try to tar Johnson without is a bit late. For what it is worth I find the phrasing terrible.

  5. Great piece Bob, private property is a cornerstone of the libertarian philosophy. Someone asked me why Im for letting businesses decide to refuse/allow certain groups of people on their property. I replied on why should someone be forced to service someone they dont like and why would someone give money to a business owner that hates them?

  6. There is nothing (Ayn) Randian about Johnson either. If I can't get anything substantive for my vote for Johnson then I might as well cast it for the Republican candidate where I know I will get one major Hillary Clinton.

  7. So when you post things like this article on Gary Johnson? Do you jerk off right after to your own words?

  8. Johnson is definitely not going to help the cause.

  9. Epic post, I'm not sure many relaize how important these points are. Whether you support Gary Johnson or not this is a very important message we must spread far and wide. Johnson greatly harms our cause when he makes libertarianism out to be a blend of leftists and right-wingers, as if the mushy middle of statism is what libertarianism is all about. Tom Woods gave a great speech on this subject at the LP Convention as well. We cannot afford to have the public confused on this especially in a year of opportunity like this.

  10. ─ Libertarianism Is Not About Being "Fiscally Conservative and Socially Liberal" ─

    Indeed it is not. Libertarianism is about following the NAP and holding as the greatest possible political achievement the greatest possible liberty for each individual.

    When it comes to PUBLIC POLICY, however, it is better to have a candidate that is fiscally responsible and socially liberal rather than one that is fiscally IRRESPONSIBLE and socially puritanical - you know, like the Marxians. Or the Neo-cons.

  11. ─ Social a political ideology that seeks to find a balance between individual liberty and social justice. ─

    Let's be careful not to equivocate, for one thing is to espouse social liberalism and quite another to be socially liberal, being both not the same thing at all. Being socially liberal merely means being tolerant of others. While a socially-liberal person may not necessarily be a libertarian, the two terms are not mutually exclusive, either.

    Social Liberalism is, instead, the political ideology that espouses SOCIAL rights over individual rights. That ideology is antithetical to libertarianism. At the same time, it is quite the INTOLERANT ideology, so it is incorrect to confuse social liberalism with being socially-liberal.

  12. But, Robert, you don't understand. Gary didn't call Mexicans "Rapists" and didn't call for a massive socialist public works project some people call "The Wall." That is the kind of thing that makes some paleos clap profusely with crazy enthusiasm.

    Maybe if Gary starts calling Guatemalans 'Defilers' and called for building a "Big Fence" along the border, he would be much more well-regarded.

    1. I know you are referring to Trump, but I fail to see the relevance.

    2. Re: V,

      ─ I know you are referring to Trump, but I fail to see the relevance.─

      I was talking about Gary and why he may not be as popular among certain 'libertarians' but since you bring Trump up, I do wonder if Trumpian language could help Gary endear himself to the same paleos who started to clap and cheer vociferously after El Trumpo knitted together the words "Mexicans", "Rapists" and "Wall". I say this because I can't see what else they see in El Trumpo while at the same time they attack Gary for not being the purest of libertarians. I hope you can at least concede there's a contradiction in those positions.

  13. Not particularly constructive, but true.

  14. Tom Woods has been on this kick too, and I think you are both wrong in the following way:

    While it might be true that libertarianism is based on the NAP, and not a mixture of left and right, nonetheless, the result has some common ground with both the left and the right.

    If you want to convince people to be more open, it's usually best to start with the common ground. The views of libertarianism are more extreme and derive from a different place, but if you hit people with that out of the gate, they will be lost forever. If you show them how you agree with some of their views, and then show them how those views imply a broader set of axioms that themselves derive from the NAP, you have a chance of converting their views. I've done it quite a few times, and it's a slow process, but smart people can break down their preconceptions if you approach it properly.

    The Johnson ticket, though, is not a great libertarian ticket as Johnson has no understanding of the principles, and can't lead people through the transition. That said, he'd probably be an infinitely better president than Dastardly Donald or Crooked Hillary.

  15. "a true libertarian would call for the immediate default on all outstanding government debt and the prohibition of government ever issuing debt again."

    I can't recall any Ron Paul-authored bills to repudiate the national debt. Is Ron Paul not a true libertarian?

    What else did the "great Nobel Prize winner F.A. Hayek" write?

    “The preservation of competition [is not] incompatible with an extensive system of social services — so long as the organization of these services is not designed in such a way as to make competition ineffective over wide fields.” and "There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision."

    1. Ron's HR1207 Federal Reserve Transparency Act aka End the Fed was a step in the right direction

  16. I'm OK with Libertarians being different from libertarians, so long as the Party is basically on the right track.

    Look, libertarians don't need to win the White House to effect change. It would be spectacular if the current swelling interest transfers over to House and Senate victories, and state elected positions.

    The House has 435 seats. Libertarians only need 30 or so to control a lot of the action and change public discourse. We need only 5, maybe fewer, US Senators to do the same.

    Think about it. When GOP and Dems team up to pass NDAA, the libertarians can rail against it and show how Dems and GOP are the same two headed monster. When GOP wants to pass some crony legislation, the libertarians can stand with the Dems to kill it. When the Dems want to pass some welfare expansion, the libertarians can stand with the GOP to kill it. You get the point.

    If the LP duffers can choose their best districts for the biggest impact of down ticket voting in it's best election cycle ever, we have a chance to send some Libertarians to Congress.

  17. Jesus. The OP mish-mashes Libertarian terminology because he has no idea what he's talking about. he's repeating stuff from when there were just a few Libertarians. The world has changed. This article is simply misleading, typical of conservatarians who assume they know everything then try and conflate the right-wing with Libertarianism.

    Howlers: A small-l libertarian is simply an applier. There is no 'pure' libertarianism.

    The advocates libertarian-directionism (federal/local choice) using Libertarian less-is-more models. It gives its mission/vision statement right at the bottom. It does seek to emplace large-L Libertarian advocates (students) in public office who have at least taken the NAP portion of the Libertarian pledge. The advanced ones are trained by the LIO, which alone decides what L/libertarianism is.

    Libertarianism is neither pro- nor anti-government, but advocates voluntary systems which may take a governmental form. It correctly and classically understands government as regulations for officials/military, or a common trust, and doesn't confuse it with law, nationality, territory, etc. as do extremists of left or right or people taken in by them like the OP. Johnson could be a little clearer, but his language is sufficient for LP purposes.

    The whole attracts the socially progressive, economically conservative.

    This has been going on since 1969 when Libertarians announced their new program and repledged. It is what the Libertarian International (LIO) authorized the USLP and any future sisters as in the the to do, to help people champion rights and develop a L/libertarian-receptive public and libertarian-direction or -oriented (democratic)entities. The LIO has also made clear it intends 3 LP's per nation (oriented, directional, pure) to fully legalize and watchdog democracy (Libertarian-orientation), federalism (directionism), and local/personal community (model eco-homes/-villages)respectively.

    The OP is confusing the LP's role with those of other Libertarian groups.

    Gilson, Rothjbard, and Nolan repeatedly denied the NAP is the basis for all Libertarian views (The axiom is the fuller Libertarian pledge). The NAP is introductory and meant for advocate students/libertarian-directionists (it's the first part of the Libertarian pledge). Rothbard (as did Rand and Hospers on their work) said his political work was obsolete with the arrival of a large libertarian- receptive (oriented/-direction) public, which is what we have today.

    Get familiar with the NAP and then the Pledge and tell neighbors, vote for candidates receptive to libertarian-directionism, and help spread a world of Floridas. That's the focus for most people for now, the basic steps to clear the way for all else. If you want a 'pure' Libertarianism, develop a non-coercive, self-sustaining household. If you want to get in public office, focus on local non-partisan appointive or elective.

    It's Ok to discuss how you use Libertarianism and what it means for you. But be honest enough to say that. The LIO encourages that. Just don't confuse your favored application with Libertarianism as such. Libertarianism enables many interpretations to co-exist in parallel and won't allow any single one to dominate (thanks to things like federalism), at least by coercion or mis-statement.

    Newbies, do keep up. Actually, most newbies learn this by doing and basically get it (like Johnson). It's only self-important academics like the OP who try and re-write Libertarianism and then decide who is a 'real' Libertarian (when the 3 participant levels--applier, advocate, auditor--have been set for decades) that get themselves and newbies confused.

    1. I stopped reading here:

      "Libertarianism is neither pro- nor anti-government, but advocates voluntary systems which may take a governmental form."

      That is not possible (government is not voluntary). Despite your condescending tone, it's clear your attacks apply only to yourself in these regards, i.e. "The OP mish-mashes Libertarian terminology because he has no idea what he is talking about," etc.

      I'm quite sure there are many more errors, erroneous attacks, and misplaced accusations, but if you believe government is voluntary, then why waste my breath on any further refutations. They would clearly be redundant.

  18. Excellent. And I won't be voting at all this year because the LP has failed me.

  19. The libertairan party is great, if you need to have better than nothing.
    I prefer nothing. Who cares if we don't get some people to join us if we have to become them to do so.
    An economic crash is coming. People are losing faith in government. What will we have to offer if we are just a lite version of the democrats and republicans? Nothing.
    We have to be radicals and stand apart from the rest of the crowd.
    Down with the presidency.

  20. Ummm.... Yes, it is. It's not the sum total of Libertarian thought but there is no Libertarianism without these two components!

  21. Anything above zero in the tax rate and you advocate theft.