Posted by: Eddie | April 18, 2011

The hypocrisy of libertarians?

I was reading the Onion’s AV Club review of Atlas Shrugged, and afterwards was getting much entertainment out of reading the comments.  One slightly more serious comment by someone calling him/herself “Anti-libertarian” caught my attention:


16 APRIL 2011 | 3:26 PM CDT

I just want to say that I don’t give a shit what Libertarians claim to believe. When they consistently vote for the party that favors government control of private lives and military adventurism abroad, and that depends on the support of Christian-dominationists, it’s pretty obvious that they’re lying about every single one of their principles except for lowering taxes. Whether a hyperbolic criticism is “fair” to them is irrelevant, since they obviously don’t respect the rest of us enough to tell us that all they really care about is not paying taxes.

I’ve always found it rather odd that most Libertarians say how much they want government out of our lives yet, as this person alludes, consistently vote for the party that would so gleefully trash so many personal freedoms.  Should the particular yearning for low taxes truly trump concerns for freedom of choice, freedom from government-imposed religion, freedom to have sex with consenting adults regardless of gender, amongst others?

Even if I were someone who wanted smaller government and radically lower taxes (which I’m not), I would still think that these basic freedoms that far more affect personal freedom are more important than how much money you have would count for more.  Having a couple thousand more in my bank account at the end of each year won’t make up for DOMA or attempts to take away my female friends’ right to control what they do with their own bodies.

But, then again I suppose most Libertarians are white Christian heterosexual males who aren’t affected by many of these issues, so they don’t give a shit.  As the commenter mentioned, it really boils down to saving themselves some money and human rights be damned.

edit: added link to actual AV Club review and comments


  1. Speaking as a libertarian, I think too many libertarians fail to recognize the interlocking nature of government and culture forms of authoritarianism. Part of the hesitation of condemning private oppression is that the tendency among the public is to interpret that condemnation as a call for government intervention, when libertarians typically see government action as escalating social problems. There is also an impression that left-liberals tend to be less conciliatory than conservatives, but in practice find this to be the opposite generally. I think that impression persists because conservatives like using libertarian rhetoric to mask their policies.

    I think it would be better for libertarians to acknowledge those social problems, and then offer reasons why their solutions are more likely to succeed. To me, that offers a better possibility of bringing about a cultural transformation away from the public’s authoritarian tendencies.

    • Thanks for the well-thought-out reply, Justin, much appreciated!

      • Interesting perspectives. As a Libertarian (which could mean damn near anything)… I think you need to do some more research before classifying us as just a bunch of “Republicans”.

        Here’s a good start…… in reading this, you will find that the term “Libertarian” has a definition in EVERY political ideology.

        But for the sake of argument, I will concur that the majority of those who call themselves “Libertarians”… in current times… are more the “Tea-Party” crowd…. which is an assortment of mostly Christian Conservatives that have basically set “social” issues aside to come together for the sake of “fiscal” issues, and concern over the size, scope and influence of the federal government. I would venture a guess that most of this came about not just because of President Obama… but a combination of Obama, the national debt, and the tripling of the budget deficit, and fears (quite possibly unjustified due to mis-information) over what will happen with Obamacare.

        If I were forced to label them, it would be “Small Federal Government Fiscal Libertarians”. And while they aren’t for new taxes, polls have shown that a vast majority of Americans are for the CURRENT tax rates.

        That being said, a little about me… I am what would be classified a “classical” Libertarian… on social issues I am very liberal, I am against the death penalty, I support the legalization of “most” drugs, I support a woman’s right to choose (with reasonable restrictions), I don’t support any government sanction of marriage… for either homosexuals or heterosexuals (the government shouldn’t be in the marriage business at all), I support the right of every American to keep and bear arms (with reasonable restrictions), I believe in a small federal government, and state’s rights.

        I am an Atheist… not a Christian Conservative… although I am a white heterosexual male.

        And your statement :

        “I’ve always found it rather odd that most Libertarians say how much they want government out of our lives yet, as this person alludes, consistently vote for the party that would so gleefully trash so many personal freedoms.”

        Seriously made me laugh.

        While I’m not a Republican, they are often times the only choice I have that fits most closely to the aspects of ideology that I value. And if the thought process of believing in personal responsibility and denouncing the “nanny” state is “trashing personal freedoms”… then I will be more than happy to trash them with the Republicans.

        I, along with my Democrat friends, denounced the Patriot Act… and President Obama not only EXTENDED it, but EXPANDED it. Yet I’m sure you will be voting for him… I was joined by my Democrat friends in my anti-war rally’s… yet abandoned when President Obama started yet another war.

        My Democrat friends gladly joined me in denouncing the raising of the debt ceiling in 2006… yet now all I hear is CRICKET… CRICKET… CRICKET…

        All of this hypocrisy from the left… yet I’m guessing you will vote for President Obama.

        That’s fine, I have no ill will towards you for your beliefs… but please, don’t bash individuals for finding their “Libertarianism”… when the VAST majority of Democrats will be selling out their votes to a president who’s initial promises of “Hope and Change” have done nothing more than morph into the status quo.

        • Thanks for the comment, Alan. While I admit I’m painting with broad strokes here, it seems the majority of people I ever hear on talk radio, tv, or in print claiming to be libertarian are more the semi-libertarian type that I’m talking about: they’re all for small government, low tax rate, but all for having government make moral decisions for us all. I have much more respect for a “true” libertarian as you seem to be, who carries the philosophy through to not only monetary issues but also social issues.

          You’re right that for many of us (whether leaning left or right, or wanting to cut a path down the middle) voting for either major party is an exercise in compromise. Because I’m gay I feel the straitjacket of social conservatism far more painfully than I do the impositions of higher taxes or “nanny state” government, which leads me to side with the democrats most of the time because they are typically much more open socially.

          It’s tough sometimes though because, as you rightfully point out, President Obama has compromised on many things I really wish he hadn’t, such as the Patriot Act, the continued operation of Guantanamo, etc etc..

          I just wish true Libertarians had more sway in the Republican party. If they could emphasize social rights more then I’d feel like I actually have a choice, but I really don’t at this point as long as the conservative Republicans and pseudo-Libertarians of the Tea Party hold so much sway. It’s not someone who holds consistent Libertarian beliefs that I’m criticizing, but those pseudo-Libertarians who only apply the principles insofar as it affects their own wallets, and aren’t willing to let go of conflicting social values. Unfortunately, at least so far I’ve heard more of the latter than the former in most political discussions in the mainstream media.

  2. I am not hung up on labels. Let me just say, that small government means exactly that “small government”. It doesn’t mean that there will be chaos and anarchy. Everybody has different ideas on what laws should be passed. The fact that I oppose abortion (barring extreme circumstances) doesn’t mean I am for “big government” and more than opposing slavery makes me a supporter of “big government”. I still believe that government, however small you want to make it, exists to protect people’s rights. The right of an innocent, unborn human being, trumps the right of a lady who just wants to get rid of that “thing” in her body, because it’s too much of an inconvenience. And it has nothing to do with my wanting to tell a woman what to do with “her body”. In virtually any other case, I could care less what they do with their bodies. They can jump off a cliff for all I care. So I find that “woman’s body” argument to be a bunch of hot air. As far as marriage goes, yes the federal government has no say in the matter, but State government’s do. And the decisions made by the States (either by the legislatures or the people) should not be run by activist judges seeking to impose their personal views on the rest of society, as was done with abortion. In true libertarianism, marriage is a State issue and should be dealt with at that level. There is nothing unconstitutional or “anti-freedom” about that. Nobody has the God-given natural right to change the definition of marriage against the wishes of society.

  3. Good conversation though.

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