Tyler Cowen is one of those libertarians that the Atlantic crowd is always heh-indeeding as some kind of a genius. Whenever one of these widely heh-indeeded types pops into my head, I google their name along with the words “Iraq War”. Sometimes not much of interest comes up, sometimes something comes up from 2007 or so where they criticize the war in retrospect, and I have to muck around to find what they wrote during the run-up. It’s an interesting exercise. I was quite surprised to learn that Mike Kinsley opposed the Iraq War, for example.
Anyway, I did this with Tyler Cowen and found this:
Like Randy Barnett (easiest to just scroll down), I have had libertarian leanings for a long time but support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…
Cowen goes onto castigate some obscure, rarely heh-indeeded libertarians for opposing the war, with an argument that consists mostly of the usual bed-wetting about suitcase nukes.
It made me wonder if we’re unfair to libertarians here. Yes, the Reasonoids are war-mongers and Koch whores, as is Cowen. And they’re among the most prominent self-described libertarians. But maybe they’re prominent precisely because they are war-mongers and Koch whores.
There’s no actual libertarian political base, so it’s completely at the discretion of the establishment who becomes a prominent libertarian. Nobody buys Reason magazine so it doesn’t matter how it sells, readers of the Atlantic are probably center to left-center by-and-large so they don’t care whether it’s McMegan or some other Randoid who provides glibertarian contrarianism for the magazine, etc.
Most of the so-called liberals you see on tv are indeed corporatists and Iraq War supporters, but not all of them are. Krugman is on sometimes, for example. If the liberal audience were as small as the libertarian audience, maybe tv and widely heh-indeeded liberals would be 100% corporatists and Iraq War supporters.
Villago Delenda Est
The idea of “liberty for all” is a great one.
The problem is getting serious about making it “for all”.
Libertarians on this side of the pond are concerned mainly about their personal liberty, and the liberty of others is, at best, a second thought. Randism takes this tendency to its logical extreme. “Libertarianism” is in fact code for bringing back feudalism, because they always assume they’ll be the new feudal lords, and fuck the peasants. It’s pretty obvious when they ignore things like how their right to run a pork rendering plant has an impact on the noses of their next door neighbors.
That’s where you start seeing all those terrible oppressive regulations coming in. To protect the rights of others from the Libertarian asshat who imagines that his liberty trumps everyone else’s.
If you want to have actual liberty for all, you have to realize that first, everyone is going to have to give up the perfect exercise of all possible actions in order to live with others, and secondly, that unless all people have Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” as the baseline, someone’s liberty will be infringed by someone else’s.
This is a lot more difficult to pull off that anyone bullshitting in a freshman dorm is capable of imagining, quite frankly.
Antiwar.com. Very antiwar, very libertarian. Excellent reporting on the Iraq war run up. They started up in opposition to Clinton’s Serb war, kept it up and are still at it. You may disagree with them, but they are consistent. And a really good source on what the war mongers are up to.
Most of the talking-heads we see on TV are simply performers, nothing more and nothing less. Playing the role of a pundit on TV is an infinitely better gig than standing on a highway median dressed in a chicken suit holding up a sign saying “Going Out of Business. Everything Must Go!” for some local furniture store, but it’s really just a variation of the same thing. The guy in the chicken suit is being paid to induce people to go to a certain store while the pundit is being paid to induce people to vote and think a certain way. The only thing the guy in the chicken suit has that the pundit does not is that he is aware of the fact that he really isn’t a chicken.
Pat Buchanan did some anti-war commenting for them, and at AmCon. Agreeing with him during that terrible time was highly disorienting.
“Most of the so-called liberals you see on tv are indeed corporatists and Iraq War supporters”
Amend ‘tv’ to anywhere and you’d be right. Unless you think that liberal and anti Iraq/Wall Street are mutually exclusive categories. In which case you’d have to account for Hillary Clinton, Schumer, Feinstein and all the rest who join in the Lieberman Paradox – with us on everything except the war and Wall Street.
Why not have ‘everything’ plus anti Iraq war and Wall Street? That would make you a firebagger, or a Greenwald reader, of course, but still.
The biggest problem with Cowen right now is that he’s practicing economics without a license. Hardly a week goes by without Krugman or DeLong (sometimes both) disemboweling him over some outburst of insanity.
Gotta find them first. Just because an Anti-Government Conservative calls him/herself a Libertarian, doesn’t make it so. I’ve only met one real Libertarian in recent memory and he was an anarchist who wanted all gov’t abolished and thought it was completely immoral. Most of today’s (g)libertarians are Anti-Government Conservatives who are ashamed to call themselves Republicasn over the social views.
Cowan has PhD in economics from Harvard.
Not sure what to say, so I will leave this thread forever.
Did you read the man, he said Cowen is practicing “without a license.” He clearly flunked the behind-the-wheel test.
Anyway, Doug, you kind of lost me with a (mildly) interesting post at your last paragraph. I keep reading it and am still trying to figure out what the hell it’s doing there.
The problem with libertarianism is that it is a religion embodying a utopian ideology. It is at the post reformation stage where there is no orthodox ideology, but has splintered into different sects and denominations.
Thus any objections to a libertarian position can often be countered with “that is not a true Scotsman” and we should try flavor Y.
Kudos for the title though. Probably one of the best from his solo stuff.
Libertarians are nothing more than Republicans trying to get laid.
Give ’em a couple of decades and poof and/or ka-ching!* Insta-GOoPer.
*and/or may vary from libertarian to libertarian.
I suppose you could call the reason magazine staff war-mongers, if you’re willing to just make stuff up that isn’t true.
Tylen Cowen is an anti-Kenesian ideologue. That is why Krugman and DeLong disembowel him regularly. And why he should be ignored.
@jl: money well spent then, eh?
Villago Delenda Est
Also, anyone who claims to be a “libertarian” and who supports a war of aggression just fucks up the brand more than it already is. There is no way to support the war in Iraq without also giving a pass to Germany and Japan in the 30’s on the obscene doctrine of “pre-emptive” war.
Because as others have pointed out, most “libertarians” are actually Republicans who want to get laid, or can’t stand the reactionary social sensibilities of the Rethug base of mouth breathing, god-bothered twits.
@Villago Delenda Est:
Can I quote you on that? That’s brilliant. I’ll credit you as “some commenter on some blog I read”.
I got into a
pissing matchdebate today with a coworker who is a stereotypical hipster regarding urbanism and density. Dude is EXACTLY the person you just described… bullshitting in a freshman dorm. That sums up a depressingly high percentage of the people I know.
Balloon Juice calendar? Any word yet?
Villago Delenda Est
Feel free to quote away as you suggested, and thank you :)
@Villago Delenda Est:
As much as I loathe Newt, I have to say that I laughed when I read that he said that Ron Paul’s supporters really only care about smoking dope. Its funny ’cause it’s true.
Libertarians are Republicans who enjoy marijuana and/or aren’t religiously insane.
They’re embarrassed to associate themselves publicly with R’s, but dutifully pull the lever for them on election day.
@Villago Delenda Est: My favorite is the “Libertarian” who works for the gov’t. I always ask them how limited do they want their gov’t: enough to get laid off or just enough to keep their job and benefits.
I don’t keep many libertarian friends.
If any of the Libertarians I knew were even half as concerned with personal and societal morality as they are with smoking weed, I would be less likely to consider them the anti-intellectual children that I believe them to be.
@Villago Delenda Est: The way I usually think of it is that libertarianism is a worldview based on assuming that different people’s freedoms never come into conflict, so we don’t need any mechanisms to resolve those conflicts.
It’s kind of a non-Euclidean political philosophy. It can be a fun thought experiment, but it only works under conditions that have no resemblance to the world as it exists.
The libertarians I’ve met seem to fall into three categories:
1) People who think they’re libertarian but are really just liberals or conservatives (liberals who think they’re libertarian because legalizing marijuana is REALLY REALLY important to them, but don’t mind big government otherwise… conservatives who think they’re libertarian because they REALLY REALLY hate taxes and regulations but don’t mind the military-industrial complex or the religious right)… and at the voting booth, are reliably straight-ticket D or R.
2) Low-information voters who’re drawn to the notion of a third option between Democrats and Republicans, because we know they both suck (maaaann), and besides, libertarianism’s all about liberty, can’t be against that, can you? But those guys aren’t exactly a reliable voting base.
3) And then, you do have actual all-around libertarians… people who’re pro-legalization, pro-gay-marriage, pro-choice, anti-welfare-state, anti-regulation, anti-military, IOW small government all around. But these people are way too few to have an electoral impact.
@Redshift: It’s a lot like any Utopian ideology: it assumes people won’t act like shits. History proves otherwise.
@suzanne: Most self-professed libertarians I know are simply assholes. The one exception is one of my best friends from undergrad – a person with whom I share too much history to let myself believe he is an asshole. Don’t disillusion me. On a related note, at my reunion this summer, I was really nervous about talking to my best friend from that time because he was from a wealthy family and was someone who I could have seen drifting into Libtardism. But no, he is an airline pilot who spends much of his free time traveling the country and picketing. Imagine my relief.
Rand and Ron Paul hate big government…
Except for the part where it pays them $174,000 per annum.
And in honor of this topic, the always amusing…
24 Types of Libertarians
I’ve never met a libertarian who at hisher core didn’t start being a libertarian because (s)he felt a black lesbian in a wheelchair took their place at Harvard undergrad or Stanford Law or at McKinsey consulting etc.
As for here? Well you had a libertarian front pager here who was at least as much of an intellectually dishonest craven as Christopher Hitchens or Megan McArdle or George Will (frequent and appropriate targets for any liberals dislike) and yet his posts still haven’t had their many, many factual inaccuracies corrected. Not that I was missed but I basically left the blog as a regular commenter here because I don’t like to be pissed on and told it is raining.
I think Atlas was my favorite of the 24.
“Someday me and my friends will quit updating our blogs, and the economy will collapse!”
Yep – Objectivism in a nutshell.
@Redshift: As far as the usefulness of “non-Euclidean political philosophy” I guess it depends on how close we are to a black hole (aka the wingnut singularity)
@Villago Delenda Est: As the kids say, made of win.
@MariedeGournay: Do the kids actually say that? I am not disagreeing with your point, just questioning the vernacular.
@Brad: Heh. I had actually thought about adding an addendum that if libertarians wanted to try setting up a society in close orbit around a black hole, I’d be all in favor of that.
Villago Delenda Est
My personal favorite are IT “libertarians” who whine about the evil of government and collectivism, when they would not have a vocation without both. PCs, laptops, iPhones, the works, from a technological standpoint, are spinoffs of NASA in the 60’s and 70’s. The Internet itself would not exist if evil government didn’t push for its development, because when the government approached Ma Bell back in the 60’s about computers talking to each other over phone lines, Ma Bell said it couldn’t be done, and even if it could, they wouldn’t provide the phone lines for the computers to talk over.
@Omnes Omnibus: I have known two who didn’t seem to be assholes. One is a longtime publisher of a libertarian newsletter (meaning inexpensive self-publication, not some expensive glossy thing.) He always seemed to be a pretty nice guy, but I never talked politics with him.
Another is a guy I knew for a while who was kind of annoying, but not particularly an asshole. He believed a variety of ludicrous things about the way the economy and business works. They were mostly things derived by some logic from libertarian principles, followed up by a complete refusal to accept any contrary evidence from the real world. But he wasn’t terribly unpleasant about it.
@Villago Delenda Est: And of course Ma Bell would still have a monopoly on telecommunications in the US if we followed strict libertarian principles.
Unless a large enough mob of brave libertarian individualists banded together to take it away from them, I suppose…
@Cassidy: I know folks who think the Sixteenth Amendment is illegal…who work for the IRS. Teh irony, it burns us.
@Villago Delenda Est: One friend of mine is a DOD police officer, who’s most recent FB post was calling for the gov’t to include DOD LEO’s under some sort of intrastate “your a real cop and can carry your gun” thing. The other works for the Transit Authority. They both call themselves libertarians. What they really did was take irony to the woodshed.
The Tragically Flip
It is important to realize that for 90% of libertarians, economic issues faaar outrank social issues on their voting priorities. Which is why libertarians still havent abandoned the GOP, no matter how much Jesus, forced birth and drug war they jam into the platform. They say they hate this stuff but it is a small price for another tax cut.
It is among the many good reasons to ignore libertarians. The social issues are just A way to feel superior to the rest of the gop base while voting with them.
When I learned that Pat Buchanan used to drink Wild Turkey and talk politics with Hunter S. Thompson, that humanized him for me. He may have been an unrepentant asshole, but at least he was a sincere and thoughtful unrepentant asshole who believed that his words meant something.
@Ailuridae: I missed you! Why, I copied and saved your take down of a Green apologist from Illinois, I think it was. I’m glad you’re back…if you are back.
But I confess I don’t understand the link to Reggie Williams. Too inside basketball for me maybe?
The dysfunction between the tag “libertarian” and Mr. Cowen’s perspective is that you can’t be an “I’m free, leave me alone” libertarian and really be bought into that system when you have the global ambitions of Mr. Cowen. Cowen is essentially saying he wants to be left alone, but sure as hell wants to bother others in this world undeserving of his own respect. Cognitive dissonance doesn’t seem to bother the libertarian brand. Ron Paul is a closer, and less popular for it, adherent to the true doctrine, but Cowen’s an a la carte libertarian which means he’s making shit up to suit his personal desires. Most libertarians I’ve heard seem to be of that stripe.
If man were libertarian by nature, I think we’d still be living in caves as hunter/gatherers, if not extinct altogether.
Interweb comment sections were made for bluntness, so let’s not sugar-coat this. This blog is not unfair to libertarians, because libertarianism is stupid. And that’s the best case scenario for libertarianism…that someone, perhaps an otherwise wonderful person, simply believes libertarianism is a viable societal model because they can’t process the myriad arguments demonstrating its faults. Just because their philosophy includes some good ideas such as not waging pointless wars and legalizing drugs that are safer than currently legal drugs doesn’t mean that private for-profit fire fighting companies are a good idea as well.
Moreover, most people I’ve met who call themselves libertarian do so, I believe, because they think it sounds cool. They like that it for some reason implies intellectualism, principled thought, and independence of mind. They are basically Republicans that don’t want to say they are Republican because they think they are too damn special to be a member of a tribe or clique.
Colbert guest editorial: Naming rights, state mottoes and the GOP primary + video
Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2011/12/22/2088020/op-ed-naming-rights-state-mottos.html#storylink=cpy
Ron Paul sees nothing contradictory in his professed desire for limited government, and his belief that a pregnant woman should have the legal status of an incubator.
I think fundamentalist libertarianism is insane, and the corporatist ass-kissing version is an abomination.
But decades ago I met some people who were pretty sincere libertarians that had a reasonable point. They felt both parties had authoritarian tendencies that they disliked, and libertarian tendencies that they liked. They didn’t want to have to choose without at least a discussion that wasn’t tied to a left/right axis.
I think this became less meaningful in the Clinton era, when the Democrats adopted a lot of what were previously Republican attitudes about economic freedom. Along, regrettably, with a tendency to suck up to big businesses for their money.
@jl: Tyler Cowen teaches at George Mason U., a mediocre public university whose only claim to fame is having taken boatload of cash from the Koch Bros and other billionaire right-wing nuts in exchange for loading up their econ department with every right-wing “libertarian” crank they could get their hands on. In addition, Cowen is the general director of GMU’s Mercatus Center, the Koch brothers “think tank” at GMU that is their scam vehicle for funneling money to econ profs at GMU to buy their opinions and provide an academic veneer to their robber baron corporate ideology.
Tyler Cowen is, quite literally, a Koch Bros. employee and a sell-out.
Extinct altogether. There’s a reason why so many animals live in herds/packs. In the state of nature as in human civilization, individuals are a lot safer as part of a collective.
It’s not possible to be too unfair to soi-disant libertarians. They’re pathological narcissists , too cowardly to declare a side, special snowflakes each one of them. Contemptible, and frankly I’ve never read an article by a libertarian where I didn’t suspect that the author wasn’t culturally illiterate and emotionally retarded. (And, I mean that in its original and literal sense, please forgive.)
Let’s give libertarians a shovel, to dig the coal in some deep hell-cave, that powers the electricity plants, that gives their house electricity, and powers the computers they pontificate upon. What independent supermen they are! And aside from Ayn Rand (currently in Hell), aren’t they always men? And never good-looking, while I’m at it?
My homemade caramels are too soft and squishy, anyone have any ideas to firm them up a bit? I think it was too humid in Memphis today. I’m leaning towards massaging confectioners sugar into them, or at least coating each caramel in the sugar to dry them out a bit.
But OhMyGawd, these are the best fucking caramels I’ve ever had. Look at the Butter Rum Caramels from Epicurious if you want the recipe. I think if I ever make them again, I’m gonna add a wee bit of red pepper to them. so I can call them “Hot Buttered Rum Caramels.” (Kinda like I make my Hot Peanut Brittle.) Seriously, the butter is pronounced, the rum is delectable and detectable, they melt in your hands and mouth. They are like the perfect caramels, I even added some sal de mer for that extra panache.
My son and one of his friends came home an hour or so ago, I plied them with my Creme De Menthe marshmallows and these caramels, his friend said “I love you.” So, I’m a happy mommy. But I need to firm the candies up!
@The Tragically Flip:
I was going to say something similar. Libertarians focus way too much on the economic issues which is why they have essentially been absorbed by the GOP. Ron Paul can get on stage and say whatever he wants because he will be used to cut taxes but thrown under the bus the second he might gain enough traction to do something like cut down the size of the military. This is why he is getting deep sixed now that he has traction in Iowa. The GOP wants to use him to cut taxes and pulls his leash the minute he has the chance to ge the power to do something else.
Libertarians too often overlook civil liberties and social issues in favor of freedom giving tax cuts. Sure they will say they care about them and will let everyone know they don’t support those policies, but when they enter the voting booth the only thing that matters is whether the candidate hates taxes.
@Dee Loralei: You may not have gotten the caramel hot enough when you were boiling the sugar. That’s the only thing I can think of. And you could refrigerate them to firm them some, but there really isn’t any way I can think of to firm up a too soft caramel.
You want serious libertarians? Try here.
The delusion that those are different things is a big part of what’s wrong with the country.
@Dee Loralei: I wouldn’t add powdered sugar. I am going to guess that the caramel has not settled yet. It takes awhile. Let them cool and leave them be for a day.
Better gooey than hard. I cooked a batch too long last year and it became a big block of Werthers.
Reggie Williams used to post here?
Here’s Tyler Cowan at TEDxEAST talking about The Great Stagnation.
His point of view here is quite interesting.
Ha ha. I definitely know the type. Over the past few years, I have met a bunch of reasonably sane ones, though. OTOH, “libertarian” in New York state often means someone who objects to having town, village, and county government, thinking that two of the three would be enough.
Well, academically, there is a school of libertarian economics which incorporates the ideas of figures like Hayek and Milton Friedman, so in that case there is a well-defined, and false-to-fact libertarianism.
There is, yes, a faction of anti-war, anti-corporate libertarians. But from all the discussions I’ve had with libertarians, they are, so far as I can tell, a minority. The majority of older libertarians have been thoroughly co-opted by Reagan Republicanism. The younger ones are Paulistas.
Tyler Cowan debating with Michael Vassar at the Singularity Summit 2011.
I first started really noticing Tyler’s work a few years back when Matthew Yglesias linked to several pieces about publishing, and trying to work out economic reasons for various trends in reader preferences. And the thing is, he was wrong about all of the trends. I’m an author myself when health allows, and hang out with authors and publishers, and it was easy enough to point at refutations of each point, but they never made a dent.
This is characteristic of libertarian writing – it’s big on what fancies itself as carefully reasoned interpretation of select data, but turns out to be blue-sky BSing about a mixture of incomplete, wrong, and invented starting points. There is, for instance, a lot of libertarian guessing/speculation/doomsaying about what instituting national health care in the US would be like…and if you were to read it, you’d never guess that Taiwan actually did it in the ’90s, or learn anything about how it went or what the Taiwanese people have thought about it, then or now. Things they like, like drug legalization, might get studies for real-life examples and lessons to learned from them, but maybe not, and things they don’t like will be cherry-picked and then just ignored.
You can find some of this in every political philosophy, of course. There are plenty of liberals and conservatives who are way more fascinated by the insides of their own heads and (to swipe from Twain) the luminous intellectual fog that passes for clarity among them. But the “I have a master key to the universe” aspect of libertarianism invites it, just as it used to among some kinds of Marxist. But at least, you know, Marxists noticed that the Soviet Union collapsed, and felt that this mattered to any assessment of soshulism’s history and prospects. If there’s a level of revealed wrongness that could turn libertarian thinking, we haven’t yet found it; we can only find ex-libertarians (like me and Jim Henley, for example) who found reality incompatible with it and chose reality over the philosophy. The philosophy and its fans chug merrily on.
Hurm. I have a comment in moderation, and no clue as to why. If someone could point out the trigger, once it’s released, I’d be happy. I did remember one, the philosophy of socializing and its ism, and fixed that, but am still missing something.
I think it would be very unfair not to acknowledge Jim Henley and the others at highclearing.com, and Arthur Silber. They would certainly pass my “reasonable/insightful libertarian” test which basically is “would I vote for them over Diane Feinstein.”
@jl: “Cowan has PhD in economics from Harvard.
Not sure what to say, so I will leave this thread forever.”
I believe that burnspbesq was speaking figuratively here. The message being that Tyler Cowen is one of a number of alleged geniuses and economics experts who are repeatedly wrong, and whose reaction to being wrong is to continue being wrong.
Libertarians == BAD, DougJ.
all you need to know.
Libertarians = Distributed Jesusland, States Rights, localized mob-rule and the rapacious economic liberty of the “freed” market.
Salt those suckers up!
Why is George Mason University such a haven for libertarians and other assorted right wingers.
“I was quite surprised to learn that Mike Kinsley opposed the Iraq War, for example.”
I think this characterization is bunk. If you have some evidence that Kinsley is some sort of neocon war hawk, let’s see it.
I was a Libertarian back in the 80’s (I plead the foolishness of youth). Back then, it seemed the Libertarian party was roughly divided into two parts. On the one side were the purists who opposed most of the wars we got ourselves into, and believed there should be no legal restrictions on immigration. On the other were those who were closer to the Republican party, but were liberal on social issues. Murray Rothbard was a prime example of the former, Ed Clark of the latter. The party would take turns, picking a Presidential candidate from one section of the party, then the other.
I haven’t been following the Libertarian party since then, but from what I hear, it sounds like the right wing side may have taken over. It makes sense; perhaps the purists eventually concluded that being a libertarian and pursuing one’s goals in a system one didn’t consider legitimate wasn’t consistent.
Certainly I have trouble taking anyone seriously who calls themselves a Libertarian and who supports the wars we’ve started. How do they propose we support the military? Bake sales? Voluntary donations?
This nails it. Most of the self-described Libertarians I have met don’t know the meaning of the term, and have very little knowledge of politics in general.
Military is always good and must be paid for. You can tell how good it is because it is full of guns. On the other hand, the non-military must have guns in order to fight against the military ones when rights are being taken away. However the only right worth fighting about is the one with guns in it, the rest of them are pinky anyway. I don’t know any Libertarians who are not basically motivated by teh gunz.
Just Dropping By
Yes, the Reasonoids are war-mongers . . . . But maybe they’re prominent precisely because they are war-mongers . . . .
Wow, man, can I get some of the primo stuff you must be smoking? Reason has literally hundreds of antiwar articles and blog posts. Check the articles under topic headings for “Iraq,” “Afganistan” [sic], or “terrorism”:
Most of the libertarians I follow/circle/friend on social media are not like this. Because they are not like this, they are not prominent. I don’t agree with libertarians about much beyond the national security state, but it’s unfair to characterize them on the basis of what establishment media finds to be acceptable libertarianism.
John Birch Society — which, at the time, had a black guy at the top! — was also very anti-Iraq war and that was totally flipping me out. Tres strange bedfellows.
A libertarian’s pretensions and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee. Their only noteworthy contribution to our political culture is when they’re being stooges for Republicans. The rest of the time, they’re sitting at the kiddie table playing with their Pokemon.
Notice, however, that you will never ever EVER see a genuine leftist like Noam Chomsky on any of the TV shows. He’s been banned. Or the current head of the Socialist Worker Party. Or…
Well, you get the idea. The main ideological differences between the so-called “liberals” who appear on the phony TV talk shows involves the velocity with which they open their mouths to fellate the giant corporations.
I usually disagree with Cowen, but he is orders of magnitude more thoughtful and cosmopolitan than most libertarian pundits. He is pretty heterodox too. It’s definitely unfair to lump him in with people like McMegan, Nick Gillespie, Matt Welch, etc.