June 21st, 2011

The Long-Overdue Rise of Libertarianism

photo credit: Tallapragada

In 2007, among a pack of warmongering big-government statists, one man was repeatedly laughed to scorn for his “fringe” ideas. That man was Representative Ron Paul of Texas. For several decades, he has been a popular face of libertarianism, opting to promote his ideals through the Republican Party. But his nickname of “Dr. No” is indicative of the general response he has been treated with by colleagues both within his party and across the fictional aisle. While hundreds of congressmen said “Yes!” to big government, inflation, taxes, intervention and central planning, they in turn emphatically said “No!” to Ron Paul’s contrasting ideas.

The times they are a’ changin’.

Interviewed a few days ago, Rep. Paul, once again a presidential candidate, said “I’ve never been as optimistic as now.” A recent economic crisis has shown the proven wisdom of the positions he has advocated for three decades. A nascent political movement whose genesis came from his last campaign shows the popularity of the ideas, if even only superficially understood and advocated. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Americans are fed up with the government’s many interventions. Ron Paul has good reason to be optimistic, as do we who advance the cause of liberty. The message has in recent years found a receptive audience.

To be sure, libertarianism comes in many varieties, to say nothing of the fidelity with which individuals adhere to those varieties. Common to all these individuals is the elevation of the individual over the state, and the repudiation of aggression against peaceful people. In light of a government which wages war without regard for the law, riddles innocent fathers with dozens of bullets for no reason, gropes toddlers, invades the property of families selling milk, and thousands of other unnecessary and aggressive interventions, it is curious why it’s taken so long for people to increasingly lean libertarian.

Intelligent Americans recognize and reject the superficial back-and-forth between the two main political parties. They understand that both parties embrace statism and subscribe to interventionism, even if for their preferred policies or in differing degrees. These individuals, looking for an alternative, often find a compelling home in the basic tenets of libertarianism. This is mainly due to the fact that out of existing political philosophies, only libertarianism has a foundation of consistency and principle. All others rely upon immorality and deception, for in applying these others philosophies to public policy, each violates its own supposed principles.

That more individuals are flirting with (if not wedding themselves to) libertarianism is not to be unexpected given today’s circumstances. The revolution’s key classical liberals developed their philosophy through education, but the principles they espoused were made popular by contrasting them to the King’s abusive empire. Today, individuals reading Bastiat and Mises and Rothbard and Hazlitt and Hayek find persuasive and principled arguments within libertarianism’s umbrella. But these policies are also made popular primarily be demonstrating to the average American their striking contrast against the abuses and aggression of the state.

The explosion of the tea party movement onto the national political scene was aided in large part by a presidential administration which boldly advanced its unconstitutional and oppressive interventions. Had John McCain or another candidate been selected, it is likely that the tea party would not be enjoying the limelight as it currently does.

So, too, with the public interest and inquiry into libertarianism. As the government further intervenes into the lives of peaceful people and productive businessmen, libertarianism will continue to rise in popularity and prominence. As well it should.

23 Responses to “The Long-Overdue Rise of Libertarianism”

  1. Kelly W.
    June 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    We can expect the mainstream candidates like Romney and Huntsman to do all in their power to make light of the principles that Ron Paul will campaign for. I am sure they are scared to death of him.

  2. Liz
    June 22, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    Modern libertarianism tends to be quite godless. I think the severity of our crisis calls for leaders that have greater commitment to their morals and religious values, much like the founding fathers had. A president with a “live and let live” or even “anything goes” attitude ain’t gonna cut it this round. Equating prostitution with freedom of religion is sensational, but wrong. And a bit heartless. No moral relativists need apply.

  3. Dave
    June 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    It’s real simple: we have a choice between MORE government and more of the same or less government and a return to the days of us as a Constitutional Republic. Social issues might need to take a back seat for now but since I know where Ron Paul stands I wouldn’t worry about him getting in. Government CANNOT and SHOULD NOT try to legislate or dictate morality. If we truly want to be free we must embrace this concept. We need to get this one right because I don’t think we’ll get another chance if this one fails.

  4. Liz
    June 22, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    Cannot legislate morality? Indeed, we legislate little else. (Robert Bork)

  5. JJL9
    June 23, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Liz, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. If somehow we are able to elect a president with libertarian principles, it’s not like he can suddenly, by his own volition, abolish prostitution laws, etc…

    Look at the past 200 years of history. Are you really concerned that we might allow too much liberty and choice any time soon? Let’s be realistic.

    Besides, the leaders with the most “morals and religious values” are the ones that recognize that morals and religious values cannot be forced through legislation.

  6. JHP
    June 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    It all depends on how one defines “libertarianism.” True libertariansm, not just current Tea Party libertarianism, espouses ideas and values that are inimical to God and true, lasting liberty.

    I agree that libertarian-leaning ideas are generally good, but I believe true libertarianism can be as dangerous as statism.

  7. JJL9
    June 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Oh, “true libertarianism”….

    I don’t know what your definition of “libertarianism” (although obviously yours is the “true” definition), but libertarianism, as I define it, is not inimical to God and true, lasting liberty. It is in perfect harmony with God’s laws and principles of true, lasting liberty.

  8. JHP
    June 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    And your definition is just as valid (or invalid) as mine.

    As Connor wrote, there are many ways to define it, but my definition is based on the roots and core of libertarian ideals, as espoused by philosophers like Rothbard, Nozick, and Rand and groups like Cato and IHS.

    I think libertarianism “light,” which I think is what most Utah libertarians believe, is harmless, even good, but what I would describe as “true” libertarianism inevitably leads to individualism (in the negative sense), minimal statism, anarcho-capitalism, and even anarchy because of the principles it espouses. In my many associations with “true” libertarians, this has all become evident to me.

    If we had more time and space, then it would be interesting to discuss our definitions of libertarianism and the implications of those definitions.

  9. Brett Bartel
    June 23, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    JHP “libertarianism, … [is] inimical to God and true, lasting liberty.”

    Considering that God will NEVER infringe on our agency, why should any government? Is any government greater than He?
    Can you can support your argument?


  10. jc bollers
    June 23, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    JHP: pls elaborate. inquiring minds want to know exactly why it is inimical to God.

  11. Liz
    June 24, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    I’m not worried about our government allowing “too much liberty and choice.” I’m worried about our government allowing too much depravity and vice.

    Hey – you know what this country needs right now? If two enterprising senators would collaborate and push through legislation…..wait for it….legalizing DOPE! Pot! Marijuana! Now THAT would solve our economic problems.

    PAUL/FRANK 2012 ???

  12. Jim Davis
    June 24, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    Does anyone here have the just authority as an individual to force their neighbor not to put certain things in his/her body?

    Libertarianism is just another word for non-aggression. If we as individuals do not have the authority to force our neighbors to live by our moral codes than what makes it OK to delegate that authority to government? We use the immoral and impractical use of force when we legislate vices. That being said we should legislate morals dealing with crimes (ie-theft, murder & other aggressions) as a matter of defense.

    Just because some people don’t believe in forcing others to abide by their own moral code doesn’t make them moral relativists. I believe truth and morality are absolute and as part of that belief I also believe the only moral and practical means of having others repent is through gentleness, love and persuasion- not through compulsory means. Or… Maybe Joseph Smith was a moral relativist too:

    All men are, or ought to be free, possessing unalienable rights, and the high and noble qualifications of the laws of nature and of self-preservation, to think, and act, and say as they please, while they maintain a due respect to the rights and privileges of all other creatures, infringing upon none. -Joseph Smith (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 5:156)

  13. inthewoods
    June 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    By what measure do you count this recent uptick in apparent libertarianism a big move? Ron Paul is going nowhere in the Presidential campaign, and every other candidate (including Paul) is in favor of big government when it comes to subjects like abortion rights. This post strikes me as wishful thinking – a liberatarian, today, is no more viable today than he/she was two years ago – especially in Red States. Tea Party folks are essentially the same as mainstream Republicans – mixing the normal social issues with some liberatarian ideas, but really only the ones that match up with Republican orthodoxy.

    I suppose you could count someone like Christie in NJ as a liberatarian, but that’s really about it.

  14. Jim Davis
    June 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm #


    How is protecting human life “big government”? Besides, Ron Paul doesn’t want abortion legislated at the federal level because they are not authorized to do so in article 1, section 8 of the Constitution. It’s a state issue. That’s why he calls for the repeal of the unconstitutional/big-government Roe V Wade.

  15. inthewoods
    June 25, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Jim – simple – I want government out of my life – and that includes the reproductive rights of women. It’s not a state issue – this is where Paul loses me. If you believe that abortion should be illegal (which your answer implies you do), I just disagree with you and I’ll leave it at that.

  16. Jim Davis
    June 25, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    I see protecting reproductive rights and protecting life as two separate issues. If an unborn child’s life should be taken it should only be done through due process, as an act of defense. If I didn’t believe that an unborn child had rights too then I might be inclined to agree with you.

  17. inthewoods
    June 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Yes, Jim – your point of view is common among pro-life people. I simply disagree with you.

  18. Clumpy
    June 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    I’ve felt that this really goes into personal opinion rather than one’s views of government. Those who believe the unborn to deserve some sort of legal protection and status are justified in believing the issue to be more than just a matter of privacy (after all, nobody has the freedom to regulate what goes on “in their own home” by abusing or killing their children). Likewise if you don’t believe in these rights then the government is butting into a personal decision in which it ought to have no jurisdiction. This issue can’t be resolved through an appeal to any philosophy of government since it revolves around the philosophical idea of what constitutes human life.

    @Jim I would recommend just ignoring Liz, for the sake of your blood pressure.

  19. Jim Davis
    June 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Haha, thanks Clumpy. The tone in my writing doesn’t accurately reflect my blood pressure level. Maybe I should quit using flamethrowers to kill mosquitoes. My intent is mostly to clear up any misconceptions that Liz often brings to this site. She paints an easy target and it’s hard to ignore.

    Anyhow, I agree with your last comment.

  20. Clumpy
    June 28, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    You didn’t seem frustrated or anything – it’s just that people who make statements without contributing to the conversation, and without ANY context to any of the principles of the original post or any of the other commenters, are best when left to fade into the background. We’re talking about local paper reader’s forum comments here, which haven’t found their home yet.

  21. JJL9
    June 29, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    ” I’m worried about our government allowing too much depravity and vice.”

    Sounds great as long as you’re the one who gets to decide what constitutes depravity and vice.

  22. Brett Bartel
    June 29, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    “I’m worried about our government allowing too much depravity and vice.”

    I totally agree. Satan’s plan would have been better: no vice and no depravity at all. Can I change my vote?

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