Left Libertarians

Here are two very interesting articles that I believe could provide a good
foundation for a reply from the SFLP. Charlie Reese's article has the right
spirit. If we are going to advance against the Libertarian right as
represented by Greenhut, we need to articulate our position well. Does
anyone want to take a stab at this: I can help when I get back but maybe
someone wants to get this going. I'd love to get Lew Rockwell to publish it.
We have to hit this challenge represented by Greenhut head-on. Greenhut, by
the way, was a Tom McClintock supporter and called him the real Libertarian
in the governor's race.


The Confused Morals of Left-Libertarians

by Steven Greenhut <mailto:sgreenhut@…>
by Steven Greenhut

Earlier this month, I gave a few words at a church-related charity banquet.
It was one of those events filled with non-political people who are pretty
well informed but not up on the terminology that we take for granted. So
when I was asked about my political beliefs, it was hard to know what to
say. Calling one's self a paleo-libertarian only brings raised eyebrows and
raises more questions than it answers.

One thing for sure. I did not instantly use the word libertarian to describe
myself, even though I write libertarian editorials for an editorial page
known for its libertarianism. I realized how much I run from that label,
even though I embrace what are generally termed libertarian principles.

The reason?

These days, the left-libertarians who have the loudest voice in our
political movement can't seem to make a simple distinction: just because a
behavior should be legal doesn't mean it's good. While I would never use the
government to promote morality or crack down on vice, as many conservatives
would do, I have no interest in erasing the line between uplifting,
civilization-building behavior and depravity.

Yet so many libertarians act as if every expression of human freedom, no
matter how stupid or perverted, is worth celebrating. This is infantile. I
recall former Reason magazine editor Virginia Postrel's book, The Future and
Its Enemies
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0684862697/lewrockwell/> , in
which she broke down political debates between those people who are
"dynamists" and those who are "stasists." Dynamists believe in dynamic
change. Stasists try to use government to preserve the status quo. It wasn't
a bad read, and I even praised it in a review, but it was clear that Postrel
succinctly captured the left-libertarian credo: Tradition is bad, change is
good. All change is good, for that matter. The past is always repressive,
the present is OK and the future will set us free.

Silly me, I must be a stasist. I can't forget about the Scripture-based
painting I saw in Pella, Iowa, in one of this highly religious Dutch town's
historic buildings. There was a broad boulevard filled with happy dancing
people ... headed straight to damnation. Nearby on a narrow, vine-covered
path was the road to salvation.

One needn't be a Christian even to understand the point: Bad choices can be
fun, but can lead to nasty consequences. The narrow road might be
challenging, but it also leads to a rewarding place. Yet so many of today's
libertarians are having too much fun on the wide road, acting like
19-year-olds who just got their freedom from Mom and Dad but lack the wisdom
to choose the right things with their new freedoms.

Dynamism is necessary in a free market, but not every change is for the
good. Government shouldn't try to stop change, but free people in a free
society need to use non-governmental pressures to uphold valuable beliefs
and traditions.

When I lived in Iowa, I was stifled by the societal pressures placed on
people. You will do the right thing or pay a social price. I thought the
parameters were too narrow for my taste, but in my experience Iowans
certainly knew how to use social means to encourage people to behave in a
community-minded manner.

That's the way it should be.

Here in Southern California - a much nicer place to live, for many reasons -
virtually anything goes. That's OK, but one needn't live here to know about
the well-known excesses. As an adult I can handle the choices. But almost
all my kids' friends in Iowa (and when I lived in Ohio) came from intact
families. When I asked my oldest daughter recently if any of her friends
come from a traditional family (Mom and Dad with their own kids), she
thought of a couple but it took quite a while.

It would be evil to use government to try to fix this situation, but as
libertarians there's no reason we have to celebrate the "dynamism" involved
in emerging families. Oh, isn't it great that Sally gets to spend three days
a week with her dad, his girlfriend and the girlfriend's offspring, and the
other four days with Mom, her new husband, his daughter from a first
marriage and son from the third marriage!

Bill and Bob can get married for all I care. They can even marry their cats
and Golden Retrievers if they choose, but I will not celebrate these
decisions as legitimate choices. If the state declared my marriage null and
void, I would still be married because my wife and I are not dependent on
the state to recognize our vows. Likewise, if the state of Massachusetts
declares gay marriage a right, it's still not a real marriage in my eyes, no
matter how many left-libertarians celebrate that decision.

I made this point in a column last year
.shtml> : "The more people misbehave and are incapable of taking care of
themselves and their families, the more government has a pretext to enter
every part of the individual's life."

After it ran (in the Orange County Register and on LewRockwell), I was
inundated by emails from left-libertarians insisting that I couldn't
possibly be a libertarian in arguing against libertine behavior. Really? I
guess libertarians are free to do anything they want as long as that
anything doesn't include trying to live up to traditional morals.

Note the word trying. Just because individuals fail to live up to moral
codes doesn't mean the codes don't matter. A colleague of mine the other day
sung the praises of hypocrisy. At least hypocrites acknowledge they are
violating certain rules and norms, whereas modern left-libertarian thinkers
claim there are no such rules.

The reason for this rant?

Well, how about the Reason? I don't mean to pick on one magazine, but its
December issue with the cover story, "35 Heroes of Freedom" epitomizes my
complaint. There are great choices in the list thrown in with abominable
ones. No distinctions are made. Just because some Puritans are hostile to
porn or gambling or popular music means libertarians must embrace these
things without reservation.

The list includes serious choices such as Milton Friedman, Jane Jacobs,
Robert Heinlein, F.A. Hayek, Rose Wilder Lane, Ron Paul, and Thomas Szasz,
and some halfway serious choices such as Clarence Thomas and Margaret

But it also includes the communist Nelson Mandela, the cross-dressing
basketball star Dennis Rodman, Madonna, Willie Nelson, and Larry Flynt.

Here's what it says about Flynt: "Where Hugh Hefner mainstreamed bohemian
sexual mores, hard-core porn merchant Flynt brought tastelessness to new
depths, inspiring an unthinkable but revealing coalition between social
conservatives and puritanical feminists - and helping to strengthen First
Amendment protections for free expression along the way."

See what I'm talking about?

As others have noted on the LRC blog, the sins of omission (Murray Rothbard,
Ludwig von Mises, etc.) are hard to fathom. But, let's be real, Reason's
goal isn't to promote true heroes of freedoms. It is to be "cutting edge,"
"hip," "edgy," and "smart." It isn't just the 35 Heroes article, but the
unintelligible article recently by a cross-gendered person, and other
libertine fare. Some left-libertarians, including oneReason editor, argue
that America needs to have an aggressive foreign policy to protect all these
newfangled liberties the left-libertarians celebrate.

Of course, Reason doesn't pretend that its list is all-inclusive, but it
does make its values clear: The list shows "the many ways in which the world
has only gotten groovier and groovier during the last 35 years." I dunno,
but groovy isn't my main goal. And I wonder, as other paleos have pointed
out, why the left-libertarians can't see how much bigger and more aggressive
the government has gotten in those years.

Basically, left-libertarians are hostile to traditional values and
traditional religious perspectives. So they are as confused as members of
the religious right. Religious conservatives think that because something is
bad it ought to be illegal. Left-libertarians think that if something ought
to be legal, then it is necessarily good.

No wonder I'm not always eager to label myself a libertarian.

November 22, 2003

Steven Greenhut (send him mail <mailto:sgreenhut@…> ) is a
senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register.

Copyright C 2003 LewRockwell.com

Steven <http://www.lewrockwell.com/greenhut/greenhut-arch.html> Greenhut

False Issue

by Charley Reese
by Charley Reese

What in the world is all this flap and hullabaloo about homosexual marriage
licenses? Who cares?

This is another of those inconsequential red-herring issues designed to
distract you while the politicians steal the country right out from under
you. You had better worry about why one euro costs $1.19 rather than whether
two homosexuals can get a piece of paper at the county courthouse.

Logically, to forbid something, one must demonstrate that the forbidden act
will cause harm to others. OK. What harm will befall you and me and our
children if two homosexuals get a marriage license? Well, I'm waiting. I'm
sorry I have nothing to contribute. I can't think of any harm it will cause
to anyone.

The fact that the state has intruded itself as a third party in every
marriage does not add to the sanctity of the marriage. It is just a state
license, like a license to be a plumber. As far as the state is concerned, a
marriage license is a license for a civil union, since the state doesn't
care whether a preacher or a notary public marries you.

"Civil union" is a political euphemism for marriage. It allows the
politician to get votes from both sides. The politician can be in favor of
civil union but not marriage. That's like a legislator being "personally
opposed" to abortion but voting to legalize it. We already have a surplus of
hypocrisy in this country. Let's not add to it with euphemisms.

Well, homosexual acts are against God's law, you say. OK, presumably God
will enforce his own laws. You won't find in the Christian Bible any passage
that says the responsibility for enforcing God's laws rests with the secular
state. There are several acts denoted as sins that are not illegal.

Furthermore, Christianity is a personal religion, not a tribal or state
religion. If you wish to be a Christian, then you have a personal obligation
to obey the commands of the Christian religion. Whether someone else does or
does not is of no concern to you. You can be a devout, scrupulously pure
Christian in the midst of the most outrageous sinners. Your obligation is to
obey God's commandments, not to compel someone else to do it.

Protestants in particular have a problem. It was the Protestants who said:
"We don't need no Pope or priest to interpret the Bible. Everybody can read
it and interpret it for themselves." Well, everybody includes homosexuals.
Protestants have been arguing and even fighting over interpretations of the
Scripture for centuries, but again, that is a private affair and no concern
of the secular state.

Some people have acted as if state recognition of homosexual marriages will
cause the whole of Christian morality to collapse. I hate to be a bearer of
bad news, but traditional Christian morality collapsed in this country long
before homosexuals came out of the closet. This is a secular, decadent, even
freaky society, or have you not noticed? Watch MTV or go to the movies or
watch prime-time television. The elites in this country definitely do not
practice morality, Christian or otherwise. You are already living in the
dawn of a new Dark Age - or whatever the 21st-century equivalent will turn
out to be. Don't sweat homosexual marriage licenses. That is the least of
our problems.

Since I'm not a plumber, the state's policy on plumbers' licenses is not an
issue for me. Since I'm not a homosexual, the state's policy on homosexual
marriage licenses is not an issue for me. But as a libertarian, I cannot for
the life of me understand why so many people have an incurable itch to
control other people's lives.

If homosexuals want a marriage license, give it to them. It won't have any
effect whatsoever on our lives or the life of the nation or the course of
world history. And a word to homophobes, most of whom are latent homosexuals
themselves: Denying them a marriage license does not convert them into

November 24, 2003

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything
from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for
gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was
an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando
Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is
carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S.
Army as a tank gunner.

C 2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Charley <http://www.lewrockwell.com/reese/reese-arch.html> Reese Archives

Hash: SHA1

Here are two very interesting articles that I believe could provide a good
foundation for a reply from the SFLP.

I like Charlie Reese's article. It's absolutely right - civil marriage has
nothing to do with religious marriage, and it's unfortunate that the two
concepts use the same word.

Greenhut makes a good point, though. Legality is not morality - I do not
approve of hard drug use, and even the psychedelics some of my friends use
make me uncomfortable. But I do not consider myself a right-libertarian.

There was a candidate on the LPC candidates' list recently who posted,
while stoned, a rambling brainstorm of ideas for signs. They tended
towards the pro-drug (not pro-legalization), things like "expand your
horizon, expand your mind" only less coherent. That is *not* a good public
image for the LP. Advocating responsible experimentation is a reasonable
viewpoint (with which I may or may not agree, depending on the definition
of "responsible" in play), but making semi-public incoherent statements
while admittedly chemically altered is *not* the exposure we need. We have
enough blue-skinned, spitting, ferret-wielding candidates to last us a century.

We need to focus on the argument that these decisions are individual
choices, with individual consequences, and that we do not wish to inflict
our personal morality on others. That is what distinguishes us; Greens
want people with problem drug usage to be coerced into mandatory treatment
programs, which is a little-better option than mandatory imprisonment
(which is ultimately what backs up the treatment programs). We, and we
alone, want people to be free.

- --
"Hollywood's often tried to mix/Show business with politics/From Helen
Gahagan/To... Ronald Reagan?" - Tom Lehrer, "George Murphy", 1965
Freelance text nerd: <URL: http://crism.maden.org/ >
PGP Fingerprint: BBA6 4085 DED0 E176 D6D4 5DFC AC52 F825 AFEC 58DA

As a counterpoint to Greenhut, I'd like to see an article with a title like
^The Misplaced Priorities of the Libertarian Right^. The idea that we should
be advancing is that politics is not religion. And for Greenhut to be
embarrassed about associating himself with the Libertarian label because of
the personal issues of some members on the left while our freedoms and
currency are being stolen from us is a misplaced priority. This is not about
personal problems or issues....note that the Right seldom seems to be as
bothered by greed, or intolerance or a laundry list of other vices that they
might feel a little closer to than those vices preferred by the Left. The
point is that our personal behavior is certainly important. And
responsibility is important. But to say the vice of the Left or the Right
are a good enough reason to abandon our unified hope for political freedom
is just plain silly. Once again, if we are going to keep the LP from
drifting Right, we have to make as good a case for our position as Greenhut
has made for his...if not better.


I personally don't have any problem with Greenhut's take on civil marriage.
He doesn't care if it becomes legal, but he personally won't consider it
legitimate. Fine by me. My quarrel is with the "Libertarians" who oppose
legalizing gay marriage. I didn't see anything in Greenhut's article that
was for continuing the ban. Same with continuing the ban on drug use,
gambling, etc. He thinks it should all be legal, even though he will teach
his kids that all of those things are "sins". Whatever. Seems like my kind
of libertarian, frankly. People who are personally bigoted or otherwise
small-minded, but have the ability to separate their personal beliefs from
government policy, aren't even on my radar.

Someone else will need to write the response.


I agree with Rob's response but still feel this is an opportunity to
comment. Oh well....maybe everyone is comfortable having someone denigrate
the Libertarian Left....if so, then I can certainly live with it too. I just
figured that given the dialogue we have had recently, that some sort of
retort would have been appropriate. I guess we'll keep our powder dry for
something else.


Mike- I guess I'm a little confused, or maybe I don't
understand this left vs. right rub in general. I
thought the original complaint was one of practice, as
shown through the unbalanced lp.org website. Is this
still true, or are you suggesting there are
differences in principle as well? Is this related to
the AWE thing?(abortion,war and executions) I read the
article twice, as well as pieces of a lengthy thread

I hate taking the wind out of anyone's sails -- especially someone who has
done as much work for LPSF as Mike, so please don't take my comments as a
"veto" or anything like that. I just don't have time to write that myself,
and unlike in other cases I'm not mad enough to deprive myself of sleep or
take time out of the workday to write the response.

If someone wants to write something, a good angle would be something to the
effect of: having your own beliefs and morality is fine, and Libertarians
respect that right, but the problem comes when the LP conveniently decides to
"pick and choose" the issues to work on. So, suburban mainstream issues of
property taxes, school privatization, etc. are always the beneficiaries of LP
effort. Meanwhile, things like same-sex civil marriage, decriminalization of
most drugs (MMJ legalization is all I ever read about), and other urban or
non-mainstream issues tend to be met with "we don't have the resources to
address that". So, as long as the Libertarian Party resources are being
controlled by the "moral majority", even if those folks "talk the talk" of
live-and-let-live, they at least subconsciously have trouble "walking the

Don't get me wrong....I just didn't like the way he framed it as he made it
sound like our membership was embarrassing him. I would never say something
like that. If he would be less embarrassed in the company of Dems Reps and
Greens, then he should join them and feel better about his affiliation. And
I thought my fellow LPSFers might want to reply given the discussions we've
been in about the Left Right LP thing. I think Rob has addresses the issue
well....probably doesn't merit much. Just the ramblings of a guy sitting at
home in Taipei with time on his hands for once.