Libertarian Labels

From Nick Bradley’s blog, a list of ten useful libertarian categories, via Distributed Republic. Is it weird that I find the descriptions on this list largely uncomplimentary(to say the least), or are they just phrased that way? Stupid question, they obviously are. I really meant, is there a way to phrase them so that they DON’T come off as totally wacko?

  1. Randians/Objectivists/Egoists – Meet John or Jane Galt. While most card-carrying Objectivists assert that they are not libertarian in name, the movement started by Ayn Rand (author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged) was and is an important influence on the thought of modern American Libertarianism (Cathy Young says that “Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand’s ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild.”). They imagine an individualist/collectivist and egoist/altruist dichotomy and put it at the heart of their entire worldview as the supreme good vs. evil (along with some peculiar axioms like “A is A” and “existence exists”). According to those influenced by Randian Egoism, greed is a virtue, while compassion is a deadly sin. The word capitalism can stimulate a spontaneous orgasm. They are prone to histrionics and delusions of grandeur.
  2. Dominionists – Business giants and empire-builders, moguls, magnates and tycoons who don’t want antitrust laws, industry watchdogs, trade unions or environmental, worker, or consumer regulation to get in the way of their ambitions. They often fund libertarian and right-wing think tanks and organizations. Silicon Valley had many Dominionist younglings in the 90’s until most of them perished tragically in the bursting of the dotcom bubble.
  3. Market Fundamentalists – Focused on libertarian theories of economics/political economy, Market Fundamentalists believe the capitalist free market is best for the common good, and any interference with said market is contrary to the common good. They frequently use concepts like “the wisdom of the market” and “the invisible hand,” etc. Austrian and Chicago schools, neoclassical economics, neoliberalism, etc.
  4. Naïve Libertarians – This was a hard to name category (I also considered “propagandist libertarians”). Naïve Libertarians are like Market Fundamentalists, except they usually parrot Market Fundamentalist arguments and harp on “how liberals are weakening America” instead of coming up with arguments and ideas of their own. They believe hardship doesn’t befall people who do what they should do, the environment isn’t in any real trouble and environmental/pollution problems are negligible, and big corporations are really responsible and good on their own (“Greenhouse gas emissions? Those are just ‘unrequested carbon surpluses'”). They are likely to listen to/host right-wing talk radio or do/follow right-wing journalism, and usually amount to little more than apologists for the Right.
  5. “Liberty” Libertarians – Their libertarianism arises primarily from their ideas on the metaphysics of personal liberty, around concepts like “non-aggression” and “self-ownership.” Libertarian philosophers are usually in this category, some of whom were founders of the modern American libertarian movement.
  6. Libertarian Republicans – More traditional conservatives; Republicans who are against neoconservative big government and/or the religious right; conservative critics of the Bush administration. They consider themselves the true conservatives, and usually base their libertarian ideas on their perspective on the U.S. Constitution. “Goldwater conservatives;” Republican Liberty Caucus.
  7. Crazy Libertarians – Primarily concerned about gun rights and privacy. Many survivalists, conspiracy theorists, tin-foil-hatters, etc. tend to fall into this group. They are likely to live in a rural area, with an impressive arsenal and weeks worth of food stocked up to secure against a New World Order threat.
  8. Lifestyle Libertarians – Like the Crazy Libertarians about guns, but also for drugs, sex, alcohol, uncensored material, not having to recycle, driving without a seatbelt, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph, driving without a seatbelt at 100mph while receiving oral sex, etc. They are basically people who want to do whatever they want. If conservatives want government to be your daddy, and liberals want government to be your mommy, Lifestyle Libertarians want to get rid of daddy and mommy and stay up all night eating ice cream and watching after-dark cable.
  9. Localist Libertarians – Anti-Federalists, they would rather have autonomy distributed to the community level, like town halls, local school boards and churches, than a strong federal government or any centralized power. More Main Street than Wall Street, they are communitarians and traditionalists, largely Catholic, often Scouting enthusiasts, people with Norman Rockwell paintings throughout their homes, etc. More compassionate and worker-oriented than other libertarians, and more likely to be concerned with local environmental problems.
  10. Left-Libertarians – A special category. Left Libertarians believe big, powerful government is as oppressive and bad as big, powerful corporations. They are anti-war (including the War on Drugs), pro-choice, and against government favors for corporations (or against large corporations altogether). They usually favor participatory action and mutual aid over government for social justice and environmental causes, as well as smaller, more local businesses and community-centered marketplaces. They may caucus with right-libertarians (“vulgar libertarians” is a commonly used phrase) for strategic purposes, which is the primary reason they are on the list at all. They are also likely to work with Green parties. Often Georgist on physical property and against extensive and restrictive intellectual property (and a major front behind Open Source), they are related to others of the broad libertarian left–agorists, mutualists, libertarian socialists, cyberpunks and anarchists; also “Buddhist Economics.”

I’d fall under “Liberty Libertarians” and “Left-Libertarians”, although I don’t know what “Georgist” means. Although I remember reading Ayn Rand in 7th standard and getting all excited about concepts I still can’t explain properly to other people. Which brings me to: if I got over that 3-5 years ago( i.e. 2-4 years after I’d first read about it), why didn’t the rest of these people?

PS: Rob Costlow rocks! He’s really, really good! Everybody buy a CD now! (Or download, whatever. I, shamefully enough, downloaded. But if I ever get to see him in concert or something, I’ll readily pay for it.)

PS2: That actually works, by the way, just like Cory Doctorow says it does. I mean, I read Old man’s War for free(legally, Tor promotion) and I loved it and I’ll definitely buy the sequels next time I go bookshopping(and I have enough money and they’re available), and same goes for anything by Neil Gaiman, and a whole bunch of other authors.

PS3: Anyone else identify with anything here?

Addendum: Greenspan says that the financial crisis has exposed a “flaw” in his “free market ideology.” Paul Krugman congratulates him for “admitting his mistakes”, and Alex Tabarrok analyses exactly what he said. Interesting enough. The Ayn Rand centre, meanwhile, says Greenspan never had a free market philosophy.



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