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A surprisingly good Libertarian book

  1. May 28, 2013 #1
    is What it Means to be a Libertarian by Charles Murray. When I saw the book in the library and the author's name, I thought "oh goody, the Bell Curve guy." My expectations were accordingly low. But I read it anyway and it turns out Murray was advocating the authentic libertarianism that is also called classical liberalism (Adam Smith, J. S. Mill, etc.). My own inclinations are in that direction. At least I wish society could work that way. I'm not entirely convinced that it can. But it is an admirable goal to strive for.

    If this was really what the Tea Party was about, they would be on to something. But they seem to have more theocrats, neoconfederates, aristocrat wannabes, and other social dominators who use the language of liberty in bad faith than they have classical liberals. They need to correct this problem before they can be taken seriously.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 31, 2013 #2
    Thanks for the interesting helpful review. I would be interested in reading a book that explains in detail what Libertarianism is really all about.
  4. Jul 1, 2013 #3
    Why read a whole redundant book? Libertarianism can be summed up in a paragraph. It's basically a set of protocols you must agree to live by, and if you do, you are officially a Libertarian. Or a simple Libertarian test: http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz/quiz.php

    No, I am not one: I'm a Democrat.

    Libertarianism though is not in tune with evolved human behaviors: we evolved as social collectivist beings, not as completely autonomous organisms. This is why we are so easily given to create a plethora of laws to control and regulate the behaviors of others in our societies: to ensure they serve the common good, aka facilitate the reproductive success of the community.
  5. Jul 1, 2013 #4

    Your PERSONAL issues Score is 60%

    Your ECONOMICS issues Score is 10%

    I'm a left (liberal) :smile: Is that good?

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  6. Jul 1, 2013 #5


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    Your PERSONAL issues Score is 90%
    Your ECONOMICS issues Score is 60%

    Apparently I'm a libertarian, but not a very reliable one. I agreed with the first 4 questions, but I'm not sure why they have a bug up their butts about a national ID card. Seems like it would be a useful standardization. The second set of questions ranged from reasonable to laughable.
  7. Jul 2, 2013 #6
    One of the people I mentioned in my first post answered your question in his essay "On Liberty." If you don't try to familiarize yourself with the best arguments for positions that you "know" are wrong, then you won't even understand your own position very well. I am of course talking about John Stuart Mill.

    The brand of libertarianism (small 'l') that Charles Murray advocates in this book freely acknowledges the collectivist tendencies of humans. He refers to these collectives as "little platoons", which term he says he borrowed from Edmund Burke (a conservative, not really a libertarian).

    In my opinion, Murray is not bothered enough by our tendency toward collectivism. He seems to ignore the fact that it is not enough to let these little platoons freely develop in a libertarian society. Appreciation for libertarian ideals must be actively promoted, because the tendency is for each little platoon to develop very anti-libertarian ideals. They tend to be provincial, narrow, even bigoted.

    This is my biggest problem with what I see as the typical Tea Party type (I'm sure there are exceptions, but apparently not enough). They talk about individualism but are themselves collectivists when it suits them. For instance, everyone ought to either believe like us or keep their opinions to themselves. This is a Christian Nation! One Nation Under God! Love it or leave it! They are only individualists around April 15.
  8. Jul 20, 2013 #7
    A few things:

    - The Tea Party is no longer libertarian. While it was created by Ron Paul and his peers, it was co-opted by social-conservatives with neo-conservative tendencies.

    - Libertarianism is a moral philosophy that humans own themselves and that they are not inherently tied to others. This leads to concepts such as the non-aggression principle and voluntaryism.

    - Libertarians can be classical liberals or they could not. Conversely, some classical liberals aren't libertarians. A significant portion of the libertarian spectrum are anarchists, even.

    - Libertarians may derive the conclusion that humans own themselves (and other libertarian principles) from different means. Some do it by religion (along deistic lines like most classical liberals had) others via reason and pragmatism. Ultimately there needs to be some philosophical grounding for the conceptualization of rights.

    I consider myself a classical liberal philosophically, but do have sympathies with some Anarcho-capitalist arguments.
  9. Jul 21, 2013 #8
    This is an excellent summary of the situation. I see that you are right about classical liberalism not being identical with libertarianism, especially since libertarianism has had time to develop since the late 1700s.

    I agree with what you say about the Tea Party. The problem is that actual libertarians need to call out the social conservatives for stealing their slogans when they don't really mean it. I mean who can disagree with "We are in favor of freedom"? What's that? You are against freedom? I doubt this will happen though, because even Charles Murray admits at the end of his book that he needs the votes (well, not him personally) of social conservatives. So he tries to make some awkward conciliatory remarks in their direction, in case one of them had actually read that far in the book. Which I doubt. Then again, they may be fans of his because he wrote The Bell Curve with Herrnstein, a book calculated to flatter those who hold to traditional values. This fact is advertised on the dust jacket of the book I'm talking about here.

    As for philosophical grounding for rights, I would take them as primitive. I am afraid if you try to ground them in something else, you will come up empty. And you don't want that. That doesn't mean they aren't there. For instance, what are numbers grounded in? As far as I know, they just sort of are. But I could be wrong and I'm willing to hear other points of view on this.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2013
  10. Feb 23, 2014 #9


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    None of that is correct. Ron Paul was not materially involved, nor was any other sitting politician at the outset. A detailed history can be found here. I'm curious as to the origin of that comment.

    Carville-Greenberg research:
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2014
  11. Feb 23, 2014 #10

    D H

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    From http://publicreligion.org/2013/10/t...arians-the-tea-party-and-the-christian-right/:


    Ted Cruz is a darling of the Tea Party. Does he support gay marriage? No. Does he support a woman's right to abortion? NO. Steve King is another darling of the Tea Party. His views on gay marriage and abortion are the same as those of Ted Cruz. The same goes for the vast majority of the people the Tea Party helped elect in 2010 and 2012. They know the demographics of their Tea Party supporters. They are not libertarians.
  12. Feb 23, 2014 #11


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    A good place to close since we no longer have a forum for discussion of politics.
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