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Clayton Hunt via LPRadicals: Why are Libertarians so Easily Duped?

791109168f9766207150ef17018da8beec8199aeYou can read the original article at the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus site here.

While reading Our Enemy, The State by Albert J. Nock a question dawned upon me, in the book it mentions that when Jefferson returned from his ambassadorship to France in 1789, he returned to an America alien from his previous experience. When he left, the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, rooted in Lockean natural rights, had been abandoned for the cries for a larger and more centralized state. While some libertarians will not claim Jefferson, due to his flaws and abysmal record as president, I think that most will admit that the Declaration of Independence is largely a proto-libertarian manifesto.

This sudden shift in ideology from deeply distrustful of central government powers and an embracing of natural rights theory to the abandonment of those beliefs seemed all too familiar when compared to more recent events. For example, this quote by Ronald Reagan: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”. This from a man who basically created the drug war as we know it today, spent hand over fist on military budgets in an arms race against a foe that was already on its death bed, promoted gun control as governor of California in response to Black Panthers engaging in open carry protest against police abuse, and basically did what libertarians generally despise all while using messaging that is appealing to libertarian sentiments about the free market and government incompetence. Ron Paul even endorsed him in his 1976 bid for the GOP presidential nomination, mentioning that he lead the Pro-Reagan delegation from Texas in the 1976 GOP national convention.

But this is only one example, from the Tea Party originating from Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign and becoming the establishment Republican GOTV machine it is today, to Bob Barr being the LP nominee, to Rand Paul. Why do libertarians keep going along with these seemingly promising tasks, which consistently set us back?

I don’t have the answer, or better yet there isn’t one single answer, you could argue that we tend to hero worship too much and that blinds us to the problems of our high profile “promoters”(celebritarians in internet parlance), you could argue that our skepticism of the government is the only time most of us exercise our skeptical faculties, but given the track record of the libertarian movement being co-opted I think it is high time we became a tad more inquisitive when it comes to the policies and beliefs of those we put our support behind. If you want to accept the mantle of libertarian, you have to understand that you are proclaiming a belief and support for the principles that it embodies, your duty is to hold to task anyone who would ask for your help or support to discern if they truly want those ideals to become reality, or are they just trying to ride the liberty fad to further their own goals.

About Post Author

Caryn Ann Harlos

Caryn Ann Harlos is a paralegal residing in Castle Rock, Colorado and presently serving as the Region 1 Representative on the Libertarian National Committee and is a candidate for LNC Secretary at the 2018 Libertarian Party Convention. Articles posted should NOT be considered the opinions of the LNC nor always those of Caryn Ann Harlos personally. Caryn Ann's goal is to provide information on items of interest and (sometimes) controversy about the Libertarian Party and minor parties in general not to necessarily endorse the contents.


  1. Anthony Anthony April 19, 2016

    It’s president and commander in chief, not philosopher-in-chief.

  2. AMccarrick AMccarrick April 19, 2016

    Anthony…. what does that have to do with anything?

  3. Anthony Anthony April 19, 2016

    I just mean that our presidential nominee is representing the Libertarian Party, not libertarianism.

  4. Steven Berson Steven Berson April 19, 2016

    What Anthony’s post meant to me was that the requirements of the job of POTUS as outlined in the US Constitution are much more for someone capable of judging the merits of legislation that comes up for their signature and directing actions in an emergency crisis situation than they are for someone that is capable of debating and explaining the specifics of a particular philosophy. I would agree it would be optimal if the person elected for POTUS was someone capable of both though.

  5. Anthony Anthony April 19, 2016

    Well, damn. That’s better than I put it!

  6. langa langa April 19, 2016

    To answer the question posed in the article, I think it is due to the desire to achieve “respectability” at all costs. There are, unfortunately, many people in the LP (and, to a lesser extent, the libertarian movement) who think that the key to changing the world is to simply play by the rules and, above all, avoid ruffling any feathers. This theory has never made any sense to me, and it looks even more foolish after watching the campaigns of Ron Paul, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who each, in their own way, broke lots of rules, ruffled lots of feathers, and, of course, all got a lot more votes than any LP candidate ever has. And before anyone says, “Yeah, but they were running in the major party primaries”, so did milquetoast libertarians Gary Johnson and Rand Paul. Nobody ever changed the world by playing it safe.

  7. robert capozzi robert capozzi April 20, 2016

    L: Nobody ever changed the world by playing it safe.

    me: Except that RP1 ran with pretty much the same message in 1988 as an L and he didn’t catch fire. So your analysis needs some work.

    The narrative and delivery and timing make a big difference. Sanders is in 2 person race where there was a vacuum, promising a lot of free shit.

    Trump is a personality who distinguished himself in a crowded field by making outrageous, hateful statements that appeal to knuckle-draggers.

    Having a strong, timely message with a compelling messenger is no guarantee of success. Running obscure unknowns making extreme statements on 3rd party lines is, however, a guarantee for political oblivion.

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