So how Libertarian are you really? Just a little after all?

I was just thinking about my dad, who is a Libertarian, and about some Dopers who identify as Libertarian, and I was wondering if the Dopers who so identify are willing to take it as far as my father is…

He believes in total personal freedom, and that government’s role should be limited to protecting the citizens from harm, in other words, military and police. Period.

What this translates into is a belief that it should be legal to drive drunk or otherwise intoxicated (after all, you haven’t hurt anyone YET. When you do, then you can go to jail. But in the meanwhile, it’s your business.) and a lack of gun control so complete that it would be legal for private citizens to have nuclear weapons and biological weapons. It would only be a crime if they actually used them.

he also believes, of course, that there should be absolutely no regulations of any kind on any business. None. Zip. He believes (and I believe he is deeply deluded in this) that market forces will control any badly behaved corporations.

So, Doper Libertarians… do you agree with my dad? If you don’t agree, yet identify as Libertarian…what sort of differences would you have with him, and what would be your ideological explanation for it?


Well, I don’t officially claim to be a Libertarian. Good thing too, since I don’t agree with them sometimes. What I think best sums me up is either “classical Liberal with Libertarian tendencies” or “Democrat with Libertarian tendencies.”

I don’t know many absolute Libertarians. Almost everyone seems to break with it somewhere. But then, I don’t tend
to hang out with political absolutists - too many of them turn out to be dumb as rocks.

He believes in total personal freedom, and that government’s role should be limited to protecting the citizens from harm, in other words, military and police. Period.

And on that much, I pretty much agree. I’m not opposed to all social safety nets on principle, but we have way, way too many social programs right now. But truthfully, the social programs are a drop in the bucket compared to the amazing amount of wasted money on the military. As a small government liker, I find our current standing army far too big. Anything that consumes a full third of the government’s budget is just asking to be axed.

And then there’s moronic social “security” - which guarantees security only for politicians coming up for re-election. Hell, the congress has their own retirement plan they voted themselves at taxpayer expense, they don’t even have enough faith in social security to use it themselves. They know it’s going down the tubes eventually. I’m pretty sure I won’t be collecting anything I put into it. Lucky for me, I’m a rich yuppie scum with an IRA already going at age 25. Lots of poor people are not going to be so lucky when the government tells them “Ha-ha! We took 10% of your paycheck for your whole frikkin’ life and we’re not going to give you back a cent!” I’m not opposed to retirement planning (quite the opposite), but this is madness…

The military and social security make up at least half of the goverment’s operating budget. One can be dismantled entirely and the other can be reduced to a shadow of its former self.

What this translates into is a belief that it should be legal to drive drunk or otherwise intoxicated (after all, you haven’t hurt anyone YET. When you do, then you can go to jail. But in the meanwhile, it’s your business.)

I’m kinda torn on this issue. While I do believe that driving REALLY drunk is obviously dangerous, I think our current laws are both unfair in their standard of judging when driving drunk is dangerous and overkill on their penalties.

But, regardless, I don’t believe being a Libertarian (-tendencied Democrat) means we must shut our brains off. There are some things that are obviously dangerous. I would not advocate a law that allowed someone to hold a loaded gun to other people’s heads just so long as they were “very careful” not to pull the trigger. Just too obvious that there’s going to be an accident there, from which there is no way to recover. (I am non-religious and firmly believe that dead is forever.)

My standard for making things illegal might be summarized as “direct harm or obvious endangerment.” Direct harm is easy - can you see scratches, bruises, blood, obviously broken bones etc? But “obvious endangerment” is a lot slipperier. I think most reasonable people would agree that holding a loaded gun to someone’s head qualifies as “obvious endangerment.” Whether drunk driving does or not… well, that might be a matter of debate depending on the level of drunkenness, personal alcohol tolerance, speed and environment driven in, etc…

Also, I should note that this “obvious harm” thing applies only to obvious harm to other people. Suicide does obvious harm to one’s self, but I am very adamantly opposed to the government being allowed to regulate when I live and die. It’s my life. My body does NOT belong to the state. And that goes for women and abortion, too - that’s their body, get your fucking laws off it. (Well, it’s not quite THAT simple, but close enough.) And drugs, too. You’re not hurting anyone else by snorting coke. You’re a fucking moron if you do it, but you’re not endangering anyone else but sitting at home doing lines.

Incidentally, I should note that by my way of thinking, polluting the environment in non-trival ways is hurting EVERYONE, and is therefore a rather high crime.

Now, that all sounds pretty clear-cut, but in truth a lot of things aren’t necessarily. Like the drunk driving example. I attempt to never pretend that I have all the easy answers to the hard questions that often arise when trying to judge what is and is not “obviously dangerous.” But in general I try and come down on the side of personal liberty if at all possible. Which brings us rather nicely to…

and a lack of gun control so complete that it would be legal for private citizens to have nuclear weapons and biological weapons. It would only be a crime if they actually used them.

I do not personally advocate people being allowed to own what I term “weapons of mass destruction.” A strict definition is something along the lines of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical), but anything that can kill more than, say, 5 people at once and is very difficult or impossible to trace back to the source is too dangerous. And I don’t think either private citizens, or corporations, OR the government should be allowed to posess it.

Speaking of guns specifically, I’m against registration but very much for mandatory safety training. I don’t mind licensing so long as it’s “shall-issue” - i.e., if the licensing authority wants to deny someone a gun, they have to take the person to court and prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt why this person should be denied their second amendment rights. “Well, he looked funny” or “Guns are just too dangerous for normal people” are not valid excuses for denying a constitutionally protected right.

All that said, I’m not opposed to private citizens
owning machine guns, tanks, fighter jets, and many other things traditionally considered “military only.” You can read about my views on this in the “How much gun control do you really want” thread, if you care.

he also believes, of course, that there should be absolutely no regulations of any kind on any business. None. Zip. He believes (and I believe he is deeply deluded in this) that market forces will control any badly behaved corporations.

Never have understood why so many Libertarians think monopolies are cool. Hey, people - they’re called market failures for a reason! The free market is not acting like it should! It’s failing! This is NOT HOW THE FREE MARKET IS SUPPOSED TO WORK!

Capitalism is predicated on all customers having perfect knowledge of all companies and products so they can make intelligent (or at least optimal in terms of cost) decisions. Given how duplicitious companies can be (and often are), and the general lazyness of people in general, we can throw both of these predicates right out the window.

And while I don’t like giving government the power to interfere with business, but when it comes to monopolies and other market failures, who else is going to do it? The citizens? Don’t delude yourself - give them a free six-pack a week and free cable TV, and 99% of people will gladly walk right into a jail cell and live there.

This isn’t a happy thing, nor is it the way the world should work. As a matter of fact, it’s infuriating as fuck. People are weak and easily led. But it’s true never the less. The great unwashed masses are not going to lead us to utopia. They’ll happily FOLLOW someone there. But they will not lead us there.

So, Doper Libertarians… do you agree with my dad? If you don’t agree, yet identify as Libertarian…what sort of differences would you have with him, and what would be your ideological explanation for it?

Them’s my stories, and I’m sticking to 'em. Remember I do not pretend to speak for Libertarians in general, as I can’t truly claim to be one. These are my ideas only. And you can’t have them. Nyeah.
Incidentally, Stoid, way cool topic. I wish I had a chance to post earlier. A really insightful observation about people who take the mantle of Libertarian.

But thus far, it doesn’t appear to be much of a “Great Debate.” Hell, doesn’t appear to be a debate period. ;]

And your dad defines Libertarianism…


Another classic role of Libertarian governemnt is the creation of a civil and criminal judicial court system to facilitate commerce in the former and protect citizens from each other in the latter. Consequently, Libertarians, rather than you “Libertarians”, support laws against murder, assault, etc., and actions that tend to harm others such as drunk driving, and even pollution by corporations should be outlawed or controlled. Hopes that this clears up some misconceptions.

What he said. And the Libertarian Party itself supports laws against fraud, extortion, etc.

There would also be a tort system to settle contractual obligations and you can still sue companies and other individuals who do you wrong.

Who’s he? Me? (Probably not :slight_smile: )

We don’t have a free market now and we haven’t for quite some time. Government involvement has given us a ‘mixed economy/market’ for better or worse.

I consider myself a libertarian and while I don’t consider monopolies ‘cool’ I’d rather see a private sector decision on those issues than government intrustion. I’m specifically thinking of the Microsoft situation here. Most people use Windows and Office largely because it’s the easiest for them (“it came with my computer ‘free’”) without ever exploring alternatives. We’ve made our bed by making that choice and I think we should live with the consequences.

I agree that the government should step in if Dr. Evil decides to buy all the water in the world and offer no service or that akin to the D.M.V.

**He believes in total personal freedom, and that government’s role should be limited to protecting the citizens from harm, in other words, military and police. Period.

I do call myself a libertarian, but I don’t completely agree with your dad here. I believe that government exists to protect its citizens from external threats (i.e. the military), facilitate trade between its citizens and foreign countries (commerce), and provide a means to settle disputes between citizens, both civil and criminal (judiciary). I do not believe that government should be responsible for providing a safety net for its citizens, nor do I believe that government has the responsibility to provide many of the social services that the United States government provides. I believe that government should be, for the most part, invisible to the average citizen. As to owning a firearm, I believe an armed citizenry is one that will not be subject to tyranny. I also believe that crime per capita will be lower in an armed population than an unarmed one. You just never know if the person you are going to rob has a gun or not…As for so-called “victimless” crimes, such as drug-use, I believe that they should not be classified as crimes, seeing as the only person you’re hurting is yourself. Drunken driving, though, should stay heavily punishable. I do NOT believe that the average citizen needs to have a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon and that it should remain illegal to own them.

I believe that in a capitalist system, there will always be rich people and poor people. That will only go away in a pure communist society, which I abhor. I believe that those who work harder, innovate, take risks and are successful should be rewarded by being allowed to keep what they earn. I believe it is morally wrong for ANYONE to have to pay a third of their income to keep their government afloat.

he also believes, of course, that there should be absolutely no regulations of any kind on any business. None. Zip. He believes (and I believe he is deeply deluded in this) that market forces will control any badly behaved corporations.

I disagree here, to an extent. I believe the market will for the most part keep corporations in check, but there should be some (although limited and clear) governmental means of keeping them in check. For example, breaking up monopolies is a good thing. It is also good that they are not allowed to pollute the environment. It should stay that way. I do not believe that government should be allowed to tax business to the extent that it does.

Well, that pretty much does it for me right now, though my brain is a little fuddled and in need of caffeine. If you want the official party line, Stoid, go here:.
The Libertarian Party

I think we need a government for a military, a legal system, and some means of enforcing laws and contracts, the last part could probably be handled by the first. I don’t think we need a government-maintained police force, at least not one as we have where the police are out patrolling, investigating crimes, pulling people over - we need someone to round up people once they have been found guilty and get them to their place of punishment, but private contractors could handle the rest of law enforcement. I think the only laws we need enforced by the government are ones to protect people from immediate physical harm and to enforce contracts, and the enforcement of those laws could be handled mostly by private contractors. Don’t like drunk drivers? Only drive on roads whose owners prohibit drunk driving and make people sign a contract agreeing not to drive under the influence for permission to drive on it. Don’t like people getting high and shooting their guns in the air? Live in a community that prohibits it.

I agree that private citizens should not be permitted to own weapons of mass destruction, but the government should regulate it no further. Self-regulation will handle the rest. Most privately owned communities would impose some restrictions on what kind of weapons residents could have, or the security company you use might have a clause in their contract requiring you to not booby-trap your house with C4 for the safety of their own security personnel.

Not quite as Libertarian as the OP’s father, but I’m probably more Libertarian than most.

This is not true in the general case. Monopolies are not illegal, as a reading of the anti-trust laws will show.

Not only are they not illegal, they aren’t necessarily “bad” for the economy, either. There have been monopolies both government endorsed and not-government-busted in our history.

For those so eager to equate economic power with physical power (not that anyone here yet has, of course) the answer is clearly demonstratable. The govenment has a legal monopoly on power. And this is good to most.

At any rate, just wanted to toss that in. I’m now an anarchist. :wink:

I don’t consider myself a Libertarian but think a Libertarian government would be better for us then the currently slipping-into-socialism system we have now.

I agree that the crime is not DWI but any injury/damage/death caused by DWI.

I agree with the right to keep and bear arms and would allow and encourage a citizen to own/conceal/carry any firearm. As for a well regulated militia - I would regulate (as a separate armed force of citizens not solders) armed aircraft, tanks, subs, bio-chem-nuke weapons - but allow the citizens to keep and bear them - this is where I diverge from your pop.

I think Gov’t has way too many regulations on business. Actually I think all businesses should be almost totally unregulated but the labor unionized (except for Gov’t employees). The idea is to give the power to the people who it effects the most (the workers) and away from Gov’t.

I think the current wave on banning cell phone use is an assault on personal freedom. I think all smokers should be able to smoke as much as they want where ever they want as long as other people don’t have to smell their exhaust.

I’m not for legalizing drugs but think that we should investigate and use any medical uses of them.

and much much more.

With the exception of my stand on unions I identify myself with the Conservative philosophy.

So your Pop is to the right of me.

As such is my humble O


I believe that a government’s primary purpose should be the protection of individual rights. The strongest examples of this would of course be the police and the military.


It almost sounds like the raving of a madman. I don’t think anyone here would doubt that I’m a big fan of capitalism. And as such I like to see the market take care of most problems. However like I pointed out I do believe that a government has the responsibility to protect the rights of individuals. That means that I believe the government can say things like “You’re spraying to many pollutants into the air/water.” Of course I’m always worried that the watermelons will push their environmental laws for the primary purpose of hurting industry.

So far as the gun thing goes, again it sounds like the ravings of a madman. I’m very pro gun but I certainly don’t want my neighbor storing biological/chemical/nuclear weapons in his garage. There’s a big difference between a machine gun and a weapon that can wipe out all life within miles.

And as for the drunk driving thing. I’ve heard this arguement and I’ve never gotten it. I don’t even know how to respond to it. Dammit.


So if someone comes after you with a knife and you shoot them, you’d be the one charged with a crime? (He never reached you, so he didn’t do anything illegal). I believe that part of protecting oneself is eliminating threats to your safety, not simply reacting to attacks. And seeing as how someone who kills someone else while drunk driving can not be punished enough (I don’t think that killing someone makes up for the fact that they killed someone else), I think it makes sense to spread the punishment out among everyone who drives drunk.

Wait. What are the cops for? Crimes people commit during their free time? If my “business” is theft, am I immune from prosecution?

I believe that, when you get right down to it, the only legitimate purpose of government is the minimization of externalities. This means laws against hurting other people, laws against actions which threaten harm, regulation of monopolies and monopoly-like entities (yes, monopolies aren’t necessarily bad, but they are dangerous and need oversight), a military, and limited public works. I believe that the government has the right to force people to pay for the preceding, although it should do its best to make taxes match how much use one gets out of something (e.g. funding for roads should come from gasoline taxes).

Well, as I suspected, my father is the most hardcore Libertarian I’m ever likely to meet, judging from what you guys are saying.

Sometimes I think he takes such a hardline just to fuck with me, but then I see the look in his eye, and I swear he’s dead serious. It’s kinda scary.

Any wonder I’m such a liberal?

(Actually, FTR, my mother is a bleeding heart liberal; so much so that she even annoys me with how far she takes it. Contrary to all appearances around here of late, I’ve always considered myself a nice blend of both my parents’ politics, resulting in a moderate-liberal.)
I have to say I admire the purity of my father’s positions, though. They are absolutely consistent, that’s for sure.


Not if you consider that subjecting others to unnecessary risk (By drunk driving, for example) is a form of force. In that case, I would say that your dad is inconsistent in his acceptance of some sorts of force but not others.

Or perhaps he views the presence of “harm” to be the deciding factor. In which case, I suppose my views are as consistent as his. However, as libertarianism is based on the belief that the individual has the right to be free of any type of coercion, I would not consider him any more of a hard-core libertarian than I. Especially as I don’t even believe that there should be any mandatory government (as it’s coercion).

The drunk driving thing is bizarre.

In a fully libertarian society as Stoid’s father envisions, the whole question of traffic laws would be irrelevant because there would be no public roads. Who would pay for them?

So you can drive drunk up and down your driveway all day… but all roadways would be privately owned toll roads, and you have to abide by their owner’s rules or you can’t use the road.

The most profitable kind of toll road to run will of course be a family friendly toll road, which means absolutely no drinking and driving, speed limit 40. Get caught? Instead of dealing with traffic court, you will have to make your case with customer service. Oh yes, no road access until you pay the fine. After you pay the fine and the check clears, call customer service again to get your car back in 6-8 weeks.

What a dreamy dreamland!


I had a retarded friend once (who happened to be a fundie) who loudly proclaimed that he supported laissez faire, though in truth I think he just liked the sound of it… I support personal liberty in many forms, though not in the drunk driving case. On the economy side, I think we have to remember why we have so many social programs (though they may be out of control now)… There was a time when there was almost no government control, and it was not a good time. Children were working longer hours than most adults today, and some in conditions of much greater risk than was necessary. What’s more, the markets do not necessarily take care of themselves, at least not in a timely or humanitarian fashion. Corporate interests should not be allowed to reign just as government interests should not be (of course these days its hard to tell the two apart much of the time).

I guess my basic political philosophy would be that people should have the right to fuck themselves over, but not someone else.

No, it doesn’t necessarily translate into this belief.

If you were to drive down an interstate drunk, you’re driving on someone else’s property - specifically, the property of the people of the state. Or if it’s a city street, the property of the city. They (through the legislature or city council) have the right to tell you under what conditions you may or may not use the road. You shouldn’t be free to use other people’s property (such as a road) any way you want. You want to use the road, you abide by the rules the owners of the road have laid out.

If you want to build a private road and bomb around on it drunk, go right ahead, IMO. It’s your road, use it as you see fit. Darwin will be proven right eventually.

OF course, one assumes that eventually in a perfectly libertarian society, public roads would fall by the wayside - but right now, there’s public roads everywhere, and municipal roads wouldn’t go away, and the reality is that you can’t afford to build your own highway, and nobody’s going to build an interstate and NOT make drunk driving against the rules. Even if a libertarian government were to sell the roads, they could (and probably would) make it a condition of sale that the existing laws remain in effect. Don’t wanna enforce the laws? Don’t buy the road. No coercion there.

Wanna drive drunk? Build your own road and have at it.

The other thing is that under a “Libertarian Utopia”, pollution and other externalities could be resolved through tort actions. That is, OmniCorp dumps their pollution into the rivers and into the air. The river carries their pollution into my private property and the wind carries their pollution into my air. So, I can sue OmniCorp for damages, since I did not give them permission to dump their pollution into my air and water.

But of course, this wouldn’t work, since air and water don’t respect property boundaries. And of course, my damages will probably be much smaller than the time and effort it would require to sue, even under a hyper-efficient libertarian court system. No, it is much easier to collectively establish and enforce emission controls through the government. But, I do think it is usefull to remember that the philosophical basis for emission control laws is the harm those emissions cause to the general public. So, the purpose of pollution laws is to limit, compensate for, or eliminate those harms rather than “punish” the polluters. In a perfectly functioning utopia there would be no pollution because it would cost more money to pollute than to not pollute. But, since there will always be incentive to cheat we need collective action.

I’m looking forward to tending my 2.4 miles of U.S. freeway. I’m gonna plant rosebushes alongside!

And if you stop to pick some, I will shoot you with my gun.