Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who is a Libertarian?

Here are some recent quotes from the comments section:

"IF they are Obamatards, and think they are libertarians, they have no clue what a libertarian really is."

"I'm sorry, but anyone who supports Barack Obama cannot be a true libertarian."

"Any Libertarian voting for Obama is not very Libertarian or hasn't looked closely enough at him."

These commenters raise an interesting question: What does it mean to be a "real" or "true" libertarian? What's a good comprehensive definition of "libertarian?" Can one meet this definition and also support Barack Obama? Are there any specific policy positions that, by themselves, disqualify one from being a libertarian?

Merriam-Webster defines "libertarian" as:
1. An advocate of the doctrine of free will.
2a A person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action
2b A member of a political party advocating libertarian principles.

Definitions 1 and 2a are pretty vague and all inclusive. 2b doesn't really apply to what I'm talking about.

My personal definition would be: A person who opposes war and tyranny and wants less government, an economy based on the principals of the free market, personal freedom and civil liberties. I think that Obama meets this definition (though I don't call him a libertarian). I know that many of my readers disagree.

I've also seen various people call themselves libertarians while supporting either aggressive war, detention without trial, a crackdown on immigrants, the war on drugs or high tariffs.

So who gets to claim the label? Or is it un-libertarian to try to be so exclusive?


Hrafn said...

I think I would agree that Obama meets that definition as opposed to John McCain. The more "ideological pure" libertarians are going to scoff at Obama--correctly--for many of his policies and ideals for the economy.

The trick that I would argue is that they should consider McCain to be a complete anathema to libertarian principles at this point, especially now that his campaign has sunk so low.

Mark said...

I'd like to hear from some of these ideologically pure libertarians. Is Bob Barr not a libertarian because he wants to restrict immigration? Is Ron Paul not a libertarian because he wants to restrict abortion? Where do you draw the line?

austrianeconomicsrocks said...

Restricting abortion is completely consistent with libertarianism's non-aggression principle. See: http://www.lewrockwell.com/barnwell/barnwell30.html

The restriction of immigration could be looked at as economic self-defense. As long as we have a welfare state, immigration is probably more harmful than helpful, in which case it would make sense from an economic standpoint to restrict it.

McCain is a complete anathema, but Obama is no better on foreign policy or civil liberties. The two parties have almost completely converged, with the only real difference being that with one we'll get huge deficits, and with the other, huge tax hikes.

Anonymous said...

Ron Paul is not a libertarian because he doesnt believe the BORs should be enforced on the whole country. He doesnt believe in incorporation. Thats what conservatives believe, so I dont see how he's different from a states rights conservative.

Thats the one reason for libertarians to vote for Obama because he'll keep balance on the supreme court and keep it from becoming too conservative. If you like the way liberals vote on seperation or church state, abortion rights, free speech... then you need liberal judges on the court. I think having balance on the court tis best you cna do if youre a libertarian.

Mark said...

Which party is it that you think will give us "huge deficits," austrianeconomicsrocks?

I hope you don't mean the Republicans - the party of budget-buster George W. Bush. Bill Clinton did a lot of bad things, but at least he balanced the budget.