September 28, 2006


From Far Left to Libertarian (Arnold Kling, 28 Sep 2006, TCS)

The question of how I became a libertarian ultimately is a question about how I changed my mental model of the political system from one of "good guys vs. villains" to one of the importance of limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility. I travelled the route from Far Left to libertarian. I think that quite a few libertarians have travelled that route, and yet I cannot think of anyone who has gone the other direction. This leads me to suspect that:

1. Far Leftists and libertarianism have much in common.
2. Libertarians know something that Far Leftists do not.

What I believe that Far Leftists and libertarians have in common includes:

1. A passion for social and political issues. I grew up in a household where the dinner conversation often was politics. Far Leftists and libertarians both care more than the average person about what goes on in public policy.

2. Frustration with political incumbents. Far Leftists and libertarians both have a tendency to exaggerate the flaws in Presidents while in office and to overstate the virtues of past leaders. For example, Presidents Clinton and Kennedy are much more popular with the Far Left today than when they were in office. Similarly, during his Administration, President Reagan was considered a disappointment by libertarians.

3. Anti-elitism. Both Far Leftists and libertarians are willing to reject what they see as elitist views among politicians and political pundits.

Not only is #1 a direct refutation of #3 (and an illusration of the truth that all humor is conservative), but it reveals the one thing they share in common above all else: an overweening focus on self to the point that they are blind to that self-absorption.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 28, 2006 11:54 AM

Now I'm confused. With a philosophy of limited government and personal responsibity, what does "public policy" mean to a libertarian? How would those policies be enforced?

Posted by: Rick T. at September 28, 2006 12:12 PM

What the biff?!!?

That a so-called, self-proclaimed "libertarian" should confess affinity to the far left confirms the worst that traditionalist conservatives ever suspected about the libertines.

So intent is the libertine on casting off the ways of the ancestors that he is prepared to sink humanity into slavery to the state, forever.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 28, 2006 12:49 PM

Objectivists are not only not blind to self-absorption, they're proud of it.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at September 28, 2006 1:56 PM

Of course, one thing libertarians and leftists have in common is a belief in open borders.

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at September 28, 2006 1:57 PM

They're now calling themselves "libertarian" because the stink they've left on "Liberal", "Socialist" and "Progressive" is so bad that even they're aware of it. So rather than clean their own house, they burn it down and steal someone else's.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 28, 2006 2:22 PM


No, libertarians are opposed. They're mostly young white upper middle class males who think they got their naturally.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2006 2:46 PM

Libertarians aren't interested in hiring cheaper nannies and landscapers?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at September 28, 2006 4:29 PM

Once they have wives and kids they grow up.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2006 5:55 PM

Rick T;

The two bigs one would be

1) Creating / maintaining a system of laws and governance that rewards personal responsibility, which will naturally be limited because the more the government does, the less a citizen can be responsible for. You seem to be confusing "limited" with "none".

2) National defense.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 28, 2006 6:14 PM

Are you saying immigration opponents are more mature than immigration supporters?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at September 28, 2006 11:44 PM

No mature person is a libertarian. Grown ups do want nannies, lawn service, and a construction crew for their house.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2006 11:51 PM