Saturday Morning Open Thread: Libertarians Are Not Our Friends


Good Morning!!

Sorry I’m posting this so late today. I’ve been pondering some issues that have been troubling me for a long time, and I keep getting stuck about how to write about them.

I’m beginning to see the libertarian influence on so-called “progressives” as a very serious problem for the future of our country. Here’s a somewhat incoherent beginning to a discussion of this problem. I’m putting this out there in the hope that I’ll get some feedback from you that will help me sort this out. So here goes…

Partial transcript:

“I’m a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues. They have been the strongest supporters of the fight against the U.S. attacks on Wikileaks and on me in the U.S. Congress. Similarly, they have been the strongest opponents of drone warfare and extrajudicial executions.

And so, that’s quite an interesting phenomenon in the United States. The position of the libertarian Republican–or a better description [right?]–coming from a principle of nonviolence, the American libertarian, that produces interesting results.

So, nonviolence, not going to invade a foreign country. Nonviolence, don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. Army [?? The U.S. doesn’t have a draft]. Nonviolence, don’t extort taxes from people to the Federal government, with a [policeman?]….

Similarly, other acts of nonviolence in relation to abortion that they hold. I think that some of these positions that are held by Ron Paul…I can see how they come from the same underlying libertarian principle. I think the world is often more complex. By taking a laid out principle but sometimes simplistic position, you end up undermining the principle. In the short term, visions of the principle are one thing, visions of the principle…it’s quite hard to know [inaudible].

A few comments…

It’s not clear to me whether Assange supports the Paul’s position on abortion, but clearly it’s a side issue for him–not nearly as important as the Paul’s support of Wikileaks and Assange himself, since he later said that both political parties have been compromised and the only hope for the future comes from the libertarian portion of the Republican Party. HuffPo:

He then put forth an argument against both established political parties in Washington, claiming that nearly all Democrats had been “co-opted” by President Barack Obama’s administration, while Republicans were almost entirely “in bed with the war industry.”

The current libertarian strain of political thought in the Republican Party was the “the only hope” for American electoral politics, Assange concluded.

Assange sees federal taxes as “extortion.” I assume that includes the payroll taxes that support Social Security and Medicare. He never mentions social programs at all; as a libertarian he probably opposes them. This is in line with other libertarians who are leading the fight against the U.S. government keeping any secrets whatsoever, e.g., Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, Conor Frierdersdorf, and David Sirota (I’ll have more about this in a later post).

Not only does Assange not know that the U.S. doesn’t have a military draft, he’s pretty mixed up about recent U.S. history. In praising right wing racist news aggregator Matt Drudge, Assange said, via Raw Story:

“Matt Drudge is a news media innovator. And he took off about eight years ago in response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

(Eight years ago was 2005, the first year of George W. Bush’s second term, when President Bill Clinton had been out of office for five years and the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent failed impeachment attempt were a matter of history.)

Assange claimed that Drudge made his name by “publishing information that the establishment media would not. It is as a result of the self-censorship of the establishment press in the United States that gave Matt Drudge such a platform and so of course he should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship.”

Assange says he supports non-violence. I’d like to point out that in U.S. history, one of the leading advocates of nonviolence and civil disobedience was a man named Martin Luther King. Fifty years ago King led a “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” But Assange favors the Pauls’ notion of “nonviolence.” (Assange doesn’t appear to know that Ron and Rand Paul are the recipients of vast corporate donations from the defense industry.) I wonder if Assange knows that Ron and Rand Paul oppose Civil Rights laws? I wonder if he cares?

Julian Assange–along with Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald–is currently the idol of the “emoprogs” who have become so distracted by the NSA leaks story that they don’t even notice that Republicans have a very good chance of retaking the Senate next year. These supposed “leftists” have forgotten all about jobs, protecting social programs, women’s rights, civil rights, economic inequality, and our crumbling infrastructure in order to follow a handful of privileged, young white male libertarian pied pipers who are focused only on their own personal “liberties.”

40 Comments on “Saturday Morning Open Thread: Libertarians Are Not Our Friends”

  1. peej says:

    Thank you for writing about this. I’m likely to ramble on with this topic. I’ve been troubled by the very same thing – the mainstreaming of Libertarianism on the right, but more so this new and inexplicable phenomenon of Libertarian “Progressives.” Before I embark on a rant with probable negative tones, I’ll start with an unrelated, but positive note. This made me squeal with delight:

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The demands of the libertarians (no wars, no government spying on foreign countries, no counter-terrorism strategy, no taxes) are completely unrealistic. Does anyone truly believe that the U.S. can be forced to return to isolationism? Do we really want to nearly eliminate the federal government in favor of states’ rights? Didn’t we already fight that battle back in the 1800s? Do we really want to take the role of women back to the 1950s or before?

    Yet we are ignoring changes that are reasonable to fight for: jobs, voting rights, a return to a progressive tax code, government support for rebuilding infrastructure, etc. The young white male libertarians have made their choice. It’s worth it to sacrifice women’s autonomy, equality for minorities, income equality in order to gain more personal “liberty” whatever that means.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Bob Cesca:

    It’s revealing that Assange draws the distinction that “nearly every Democrat” has been brainwashed by President Obama and that change is “not going to come from the Democrats,” while he’s more generous toward the Republican party in that he separates the libertarian wing from the “co-opted parts.” The idea seems to be that there are acceptable elements of the Republican party, but no acceptable elements of the Democratic party.

    Why? Because drones?

    Never mind civil rights, economic inequality, progressive taxation, reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, or science and education. None of these issues — issues that actually effect the lives of hundreds of millions of people on a daily basis — merit any form of praise because drones.

    For Assange and Wikileaks, progressive taxation is equivalent to ‘extorting taxes from people for the federal government,’ and opposition to abortion is born out of a principle of non-violence. Some may consider the latter to be a form of violence that forces women to carry children to term even if that child belongs to a woman’s rapist.

    The Democratic party has apparently been brainwashed by the Obama administration to take matters of national security seriously while also supporting a more just and inclusive society that does not criminalize abortion, does not criminalize homosexuality, does not criminalize minorities, and does not criminalize the poor.

    Please note that Glenn Greenwald’s views as expressed in his writing over the years are completely in line with Assange’s.

    • RalphB says:

      The fact that Assange is stuck in that embassy in London due to rape charges fits right in with their completely selfish world view.

    • RalphB says:

      I’d like to point out that, after all the noise, Rand Paul is perfectly OK with the drone policy now. Funny but true.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It would make sense, considering his selfishness and self-involvement.

        • RalphB says:

          He is fine with drones, if we don’t drone someone at Starbucks in Kentucky. No kidding he now supports them.

          • bostonboomer says:

            Right. Why is it that none of the “nonviolence” advocates notice that the Pauls get so much money from defense contractors?

          • RalphB says:

            I’ve come to believe they are kind of stupid and can’t or don’t keep up. They just read headlines, not stories. I’m not really kidding.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Glenn Greenwald interviewed by his idol, Ron Paul

    • RalphB says:

      What a wildly narcissistic 14 min chuck of pure bullshit. Greenwald lied through his teeth about his stories and what they “proved”! Hefty ass kissing there as well.

  5. Louis Nayman says:

    US-out-of-North-America tendency ever since Viet-Nam drives much of the left’s reflexive attacks on US foreign policy — a near half-century of adolescent useful idiocy. Trouble is, ‘Libertarians’ tend to be way smarter and will eat these newfound groupies for lunch.

    • peej says:


      I don’t think I quite understand what you are trying to say. Would you please clarify what you mean by newfound groupies? Are these Libertarians or non-intervention advocates?

      Quippy sarcasm, well appreciated, however, Libertarians tend not to regard any matter comprehensively, including foreign policy. I’ve yet to find a Libertarian “eat anyone for lunch” without resorting to propagandist reasoning rather than logical formality. I’d be very interested in your clarification of the “eating newfound groupies” point as well. Please explicate if you will.

      • Louis Nayman says:

        I should apologize for imprecision in my characterization of the groupies — not so much ‘newfound’ as ‘jumped into the lap of’ the likes of Rand Paul and Glenn Greenwad. What the drone/PRISM/whistleblower butterfly flaps seem to have animated is a commingling of black helicopter whirlwind with the hot air keeping all those tiny black and red banners aflutter. I’ve seen and heard self-described socialists claim Greenwad (AWOL on Brazilian repression, Russian human rights) as a fellow leftist. Disregarding libertarian antipathy to national health care, public education and social services, food inspection, environmental, banking, pharmaceutical, and occupational and consumer safety and health regulation in a swoon over reactionary attacks on US national security intelligence and foreign policy embodies useful idiocy in a way Stalin might have envied.

        You don’t see Greenwad, pere and fils Paul, Assange etc offer so much as the courtesy of an obligatory reach-around to their newfound fawning and dispiritingly clueless buddies on the left.

        • RalphB says:

          Isn’t that the dispiriting truth!

        • bostonboomer says:

          I have to agree. And if you mean these libertarians are “way smarter” than the worshipful emoprogs, you’re probably right about that–although it’s not saying much. These are the same people who pushed Obama down our throats in 2008. Now their hatred of Obama knows no bounds because he wasn’t able to perform miracles and bend Republicans to his will. He just did pretty much what he said he would do–act like a Rockefeller Republican. But the emoprogs weren’t listening, just fantasizing..

  6. peej says:

    Here’s my rant, I’ll try to keep it short. I haven’t even finished with my Wyden rant. Anyway, to the post at hand – where to begin? I guess the first place would be with Julian Assange. He exemplifies a notion that I alluded to in the last Happiness post – “What we think” and “How we think.” There, I tried to point out the structural religiosity in our national identity (and self-expectation). What I hadn’t yet gotten to was the other prominent element embedded in “What we think” and “How we think” – and that is Libertarianism.

    Assange has it backwards. What is permeating our national discourse and the trajectory of our politics are the projections of two right wing angles – Evangelism and Libertarianism. Both project a similar anti-intellectual thought pattern which I think is the most damaging and most hazardous feature.

    The anti-intellectualism embedded in revelatory thinking is patently obvious, I think. On that note – as suggested, I am working on early American women writers post, so I’ve been reviewing some of the Massachusetts Bay documents etc. and I have to say, I see little difference between Puritan thinking in the first half of the 17th century and Evangelical thinking in the first half of the 21st. I find it frightful. Libertarians don’t stray too far from this mold.

    LIbertarians fancy themselves intellectuals and guided by reason more often than not, but if you’ve ever spent any time discussing anything with Libertarians or reading Libertarian treatises, it soon becomes abundantly clear that their pattern of thinking really isn’t too dissimilar from Evangelical thinking in its absence of logic and cogency. Also, Libertarian discourse is conspicuously marked by syllogistic and simplex reasoning with an inability to process nuance or complexity. Most notably how propagandistically Libertarians will construct an “argument.” LIke with revelatory thinking, Libertarians seem to be able to exist in a state of cognitive dissonance at all times, often rejecting objective reality in favor of the demonstrably untrue. Moreover, the painfully obvious untruth – frequently in the form of historical revisionism or a thoroughly baffling understanding of the world around them. This was my first reaction to Assange’s interview, particularly on the point you picked up on – Assange’s curious timeline of Matt Drudge and Monica Lewinsky.

    For the thinking individual, alarm bells immediately sound when Assange makes the assertion that he does. But Libertarians don’t hear that alarm bell, they hear the dog whistle of “censorship.” Opposition to censorship is an article of faith among Libertarians. After participating in my fair share of heated “debate” (I use the term lightly) on that subject, in my view, Libertarians typically hold some rather non-rational views regarding censorship – like, only governments are capable of censorship. Hence, censorship usually carries great moral weight.

    Point being, however, this same kind of irrational construction when approaching the problems of our day has seeped into Progressive thought patterns. The Greenwald-Snowden absurdities and drone warfare debate have brought it to the fore, but I’ve seen it creeping in little by little in Left Wing discourse in my home state, particularly in the inane and vitriolic blogosphere where Progressives splinter into bizarre, at times interchangeable, but fairly hostile camps.

    These are my personal observations of watching the shifting discourse, nothing more, bear that in mind. Yet, the disturbing trends that I’ve been tracking among the Left in Wisconsin include self-styled Progressive “pragmatists” who are anything but, and who can’t tolerate anything they view as “impractical,” and who seem incapable of rational critique. Worse, though, that intolerance seems to be derived from or might be fostering (can’t tell which) a notable decrease in empathy. Then there’s the surfacing of an inability to distinguish an Ad Hominem “attack” from a legitimate challenge. In more ways than not, these “Progressives” resemble Rand Paul, Paul Ryan and Scott Walker in their cold closed-mindedness. In short, the abandonment of critical thought that characterizes the increasingly radicalized Right has now permeated the Left. I mean by that the inability to draw a reasonable conclusion that lies somewhere between the sound and the flawed.

    Granted, divide and conquer has worked wonders here, and the observations noted above are of bloggers. I don’t want to personalize my point too much, but I’ve watched a similar shift even among my own family members – Conservatives growing more irrationally Conservative-Libertarian, but also Progressives growing more irrationally Conservative-Libertarian. People who I’d never in a million years believe could be persuaded by the inundation of Anti-Choice commercials, people who’ve marched beside me in Pro-Choice rallies in Washington DC, next to Jane Fonda, encouraged me to sing “I am Woman” loud and clear along side Helen Reddy, can now watch an Anti-Choice commercial spewing patently propagandistic nonsense and absently consent to its message. I mean, really, it’s extraordinary.

    So, I do agree with you, BB, there is an odd Libertarian thread weaving its way through Progressivism, but I tend to think it is part of a larger Conservative fabric that sews itself successfully throughout the national consciousness due to the instilling of anti-intellectualism marked by irrational thought patterns, the subversion and/or denial of basic reason and even the rudiments of rational thought.

    The term EmoProg (and its synonym Purotopian) is new to me, I had to look it up, but I think I’ve seen varying degrees and alternate tinges of EmoProg thought and never knew there was a term for it. I do find that EmoProg strand worrisome on a number of scores, but one that stands out in particular is how cannibalistic it is – in much the same way the Tea Party will eat its own without hesitation or batting an eye. But more worrisome to me is the easy acceptance on the part of elected representatives of Libertarian-esque policy positions that may seem Leftish or Progressive, but in my view really aren’t genuinely pragmatic or thoughtful at all, but rather knee-jerk contrarian efforts motivated by a licentious press. Like the crazy anti-NSA legislation that is now so in vogue in Congress.

    I don’t want to hijack the thread so I’ll stop there. Those are some initial thoughts. I think you are spot and on and your concern for the future of our country valid if this trend continues.

  7. RalphB says:

    Amazing and well worth reading. Hellacious corruption there.

    West Virginia Judge Indicted For Attempting To Frame Romantic Rival

  8. janicen says:

    I haven’t read all the links but in a nutshell I’m looking at this new trend toward libertarianism as just another tool being used by the corporations/fascists. I was just talking to hubby about this today. Who advocates for less regulation and smaller government? People who have already made their money and want to make sure they don’t have to share it with anyone else. Or corporations. Or tools of corporations.

  9. dakinikat says:

    Martha Plimpton ‏@MarthaPlimpton 10m
    RT @KathaPollitt: Assange: antichoice reflects “nonviolence.” Tell it to Dr. Tiller’s murderer, Julian. / Narcissist.

    • peej says:

      Indeed, the “non-violence” canard is one of THE biggest jokes of Libertarianism. I don’t think it’s fair to cast all Libertarians as Anti-Choice because there are pro-choice factions. Yet, the most vocal and dogmatic do tend to take the view that anti-choice is non-violent given the “personhood” theory of pregnancy which entirely ignores motherhood; at best the view regards “mother” as mere “vessel.”

      Their non-violence and non-coercion rhetoric is pretty disgusting. Once the inherently coercive and passive aggressive nature of corporate governance or globalism comes up – as in human trafficking, sex and pornography industries, slave labor etc. – well then, deflection sets in and immediately the angle shifts to “consent theory” and “personal responsibility” and “individual choice.” Essentially blaming the victim and altogether denying the oppressive character of non-governmental power structures.

      Equally ludicrous is all the squeaking and squawking about “tyranny! tyranny!” when the philosophical basis of Libertarianism seeks to create a society of individual petty tyrants not beholden to anyone or anything. And I think you are right – much of that attitude is upheld by prioritizing white, male privilege.