Bryan Caplan  

The Libertarian Penumbra

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Job Losses vs. Unemployment... Home Schooling and Socializati...
Libertarians are famous for their internal disagreements, but they have far more beliefs in common than their core position requires.  For starters, even non-consequentialist libertarians generally believe that libertarian policies have good consequences.  Almost all libertarians think that free markets are better for economic growth, legalization of drugs would not radically increase drug use, and rent control causes shortages.

The more interesting fact, though, is that libertarians have many beliefs in common that have little to do with the consequences of liberty.  They're just part of our vibrant, iconoclastic intellectual subculture.  A few examples: 

  • Most libertarians accept the validity of IQ testing.  A perfectly good libertarian could reject IQ tests as "culturally biased," but few do. 
  • Libertarians have favorable views of home schooling - even though conventional private schooling is equally consistent with libertarian principles.
  • Libertarianism implies opposition to government population control, but it doesn't imply another view common among libertarians: that population growth has major economic benefits because people are "the ultimate resource."  Notice: A statist who took this idea seriously could easily argue for government intervention to raise the birth rate.
What are your favorite examples of other beliefs in this "libertarian penumbra"?  Which are you willing to defend?  Which are most subject to abuse?  Are there any that make you cringe?  Inquiring minds want to know.


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COMMENTS (56 to date)
Blackadder writes:

My guess is that libertarians disproportionately think global warming is a myth, even though nothing in libertarian political philosophy speaks to whether carbon emissions make the earth warmer.

Mick Rolland writes:

I would rather say that libertarians don't believe (or are skeptical) that global warming is caused by humans, rather than believing that it doesn't exist. (I personally think it is harder to trick temperature measurement -although feasible- than to manipulate sloppy correlations/econometric brouhaha.)

I would quip to Bryan that an essential tenet of most Libertarians is that they tend to be more skeptical of activist monetary policy and of the virtues of fiscal deficits than the average citizen and even than the average economist. That is orthodox economics more than a belief in freedom, but (classical) liberal economists made the link: Central planning of the monetary sector is a source of enormous power for the State (for instance to finance wars), and so is the ability to throw the taxpayer into debt.

Carl writes:

I was unaware that libertarians have favorable views toward home schooling. That definitely makes me cringe. I don't think there's anything good about home schooling.

Although I do not necessarily trust teachers to do a legitimate job of imparting lasting knowledge and skills to children, I trust them a hell of a lot more than over-protective parents.

I also generalize home schooling parents as religious zealots.

Home schooling also eliminates one of the most important roles of primary education - which is teaching young people how to interact with other human beings.

Cole writes:

Some I have personally noticed that may or may not be true:

Libertarians have been quick to embrace the internet.

Libertarians are more likely to be smokers then the general population.

Libertarians tend to fall into the NT category of the Myers Briggs typology at a disproportionate rate.

michael writes:

Libertarians are almost uniformly cosmopolitan in their consumer choices.
All strains of libertarianism support free trade and so on, but that doesn't necessarily mean they should enjoy foreign culture/products.

Yet, just about every American libertarian I've met enjoys foreign food, music, literature, and foreign-made goods. I don't see any nostalgia for "Good 'ol American" this or that.

Scott Sumner writes:

Libertarian tendencies that make me cringe:

1. Crackpot theories of money/macro. A tendency to overlook the problem of demand shocks.
2. Global warming denial. (But skepticism about Gore-type solutions is fine.)
3. Overlooking the importance of having a "civic-minded" culture, such as you observe in Denmark.
4. Distrust of democracy.
5. Overlooking the importance of private non-profit enterprises.
6. Making the perfect be the enemy of the "much better."
7. Confusing individualism with libertarianism.
8. Seeing history through middle class white male eyes.
9. Too much nostalgia for the past, and for the future. Right now was once the future, and will soon be the past.
10. I can't think of anything else, but all lists should have ten items.

But I'm still proud to call myself a libertarian.


Blackadder writes:

Home schooling also eliminates one of the most important roles of primary education - which is teaching young people how to interact with other human beings.

One wonders how human beings managed to interact with each other during the bulk of human history before the advent of primary education.

AMW writes:

Home schooling also eliminates one of the most important roles of primary education - which is teaching young people how to interact with other human beings.

The most important role of primary education as it exists in the West is to provide eight hours of babysitting five days a week for twelve years on the taxpayer's dime. Young people learn how to interact with other human beings by playing with friends, neighbors, siblings and parents, as well as any number of voluntary associations like churches and sports teams. The education system just forces young people to interact primarily with other people their age for long stretches of time.

My best guess for why homeschooling makes you cringe is that home schooled kids tend to be a lot like their parents and the median home schooling parent is admittedly a bit off. But I hold that the median home schooling parent has, over the years, come to asymptotically resemble the median white or asian suburban American. And that's not so off. (The weirdos are definitely still out there, though.)

Full disclosure: I was home schooled for three grades and my wife and I are currently home schooling our children.

Mark Plus writes:
Libertarianism implies opposition to government population control, but it doesn't imply another view common among libertarians: that population growth has major economic benefits because people are "the ultimate resource."

Doesn't the gold standard impose a Malthusian constraint on the human population? "The ultimate resource" invented fractional reserve lending and fiat money to get around that constraint, but many libertarians want to shackle the human mind when it comes to this particular resource.

Todd Kuipers writes:

I would suggest the following (some repeats, I know):
- Libertarians are skeptical of global warming as a political/statist concept (and unlike Scott, I think there is very little about global warming and climate change that isn't massively politically biased and heavily statist, hence I'm skeptical of the vast majority of it).
- I once thought that most libertarians would be atheists, given that most libertarians (again an assumption) are skeptics. I've since been well schooled that religion and libertarianism is well connected (under the belief that a libertarian society is the best opportunity to freely practice your religion). I've changed this stance to be more like, "I'm confused how strong skeptics aren't generally libertarians."
- Libertarians are likely less disposed to home schooling than heavily religious types, but more disposed to it than the general population. I realize that I (and I won't speak for my wife) am not a good (read: patient) enough teacher to keep my kids home and teach them for the 2 hours per day it would take for them to keep up with their public school system peers (leaving 11 other waking hour for socialization). But, I'd take home schooling over the public system in most US metro areas.
- Libertarians are much more likely to hold a belief in gold as a "ideal" currency
- Philosophically cogent libertarians (i.e. those without much logical conflict) are more likely to volunteer than average (based on my observations). (I think I've seen stats backing this up).
- Like Scott, I also cringe at a lack of empathy shown for a strong civic culture, and (self funded) non-profit enterprises.
- I'm pretty sure that most libertarians are knee-jerk anti-"government", missing the point that if government were competitive and non-coercive that many (most?) would be in favour of some kind of voluntary redistribution.

B writes:

Speaking of population. Has anyone seen this?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110220/ts_afp/scienceuspopulationfood

While I support access to birth control measures in developing countries to help liberate women, the whole tone of the article is ominous. Does anyone know more about this AAAS meeting?

Dale writes:

Blackadder wrote;

One wonders how human beings managed to interact with each other during the bulk of human history before the advent of primary education.

They got jobs when they were 10

AMV wrote

The most important role of primary education as it exists in the West is to provide eight hours of babysitting five days a week for twelve years on the taxpayer's dime.

No, the most important role of primary education is providing a population able to participate at a minimal level within the civic system and is competent enough to be productive at a minimum level in the workforce.

But I hold that the median home schooling parent has, over the years, come to asymptotically resemble the median white or asian suburban American. And that's not so off.

Only if the median white or asian suburban American has a disagreement with the civic system as to the proper values and courses of education.

And that is certainly not so.

...and is competent enough to be productive at a minimum level in the workforce.

What I've learned about how to participate in the workforce took place when actually at work. Though I do feel school had important socialization aspects to it.

Hume writes:

Many libertarians are anti-union. This is not a logically-entailed position, and, given the realization that many antitrust laws favor business, one would think libertarians would be sympathetic of unionization in certain contexts.

James writes:

Re: Scott Sumner's list: What's wrong with distrusting democracy? Is it so unreasonable to distrust others to make your decisions for you?

Seriously, there are plenty of decisions that you presently make for yourself that you could readily put to a vote in the future e.g. what car to buy, what to eat for dinner, how to prepare for your retirement, etc. If you haven't put these decisions up to a vote, what could possibly be your reason other than a healthy distrust of democracy?

David N writes:

Somtimes it's all how you frame it. A strong preference for gold-backed currency is crazy I suppose. A fundamental mistrust of fiat money? Not so crazy.

I think libertarians are much more likely to be accepting of the right to homeschool but I seriously doubt that libertarians are more likely to homeschool themselves. Public school with vouchers is a pretty mainstream libertarian dream.

Regarding IQ tests, can we accept that they measure something valid without accepting the full Charles Murray IQ = destiny scenario? I'd be cool with that.

Besides Caplan's core, my libertarian penumbra includes asset forfeiture prior to conviction, bogus occupational licensing laws against things like hair-braiding or jitneys, eminent domain abuse, and to be sure more that I can't think of at the moment.

The main thing that makes me cringe is libertarian denial of externalities such as pollution.

michael writes:

Oh, man. I forgot the most cringe-inducing libertarian meme:

Belief in homeopathic medicine, often coupled with a rejection of modern medicine. It seems to correlate with the [wise] opposition to the FDA.

This is one that really makes libertarians look nuts.

Evan writes:
Libertarianism implies opposition to government population control, but it doesn't imply another view common among libertarians: that population growth has major economic benefits because people are "the ultimate resource."

I believe Robert A. Heinlein was an example of a libertarian who was opposed to government population control, but also did believe in Malthusianism.

I've noticed that libertarians tend to like science fiction more than the general population. That might come from what Cole wrote earlier about being NT on Myer-Briggs, libertarians like thinking about big ideas, and SF is the best type of fiction for that. Of course, it might also be that libertarianism and SF fandom are both correlated with being smart :)

Blackadder writes:

Dale,

The survey research I've seen indicates that people who were homeschooled have higher rates of civil participation than the general population (not aware of any research on income, but data on educational achievement make me very skeptical of the claim that the average homeschooler isn't "competent enough to be productive at a minimum level in the workforce.")

When people say that schooling is necessary for socialization I have to wonder, do they not remember what school was like?

Ed Bosanquet writes:

Bryan,
I don't consider myself a fan of home schooling in the least. In fact, I have a great respect for our public education system. To show my libertarian colors, I'm not sure it's worth the cost to the tax payer but, in my area, the public education is better than the private.

My child needs education from me to expound upon our shared interests but he absolutely needs professional educators to provide a well balanced education.

In the absence of adequate publicly funded education I would do my best to ensure he received private education (this may be the more typical true libertarian feeling. I don't know.) But this would not typically be defined as home schooling.

Thank you,
Ed

Jim Object writes:

I know a lot of rural Christian libertarians, I just think that the Christian rural libertarian, while frequently well versed, isn't prone to going to liberty conferences or engaging in online conversation. They're generally very, very private people.

Also, I largely reject the I.Q. test, and I have a very high I.Q.

There are also hobbies and art that seem to show up a lot in libertarian circles. For instance, many libertarians have an interest in architecture. I think this is a symptom of "The Fountainhead."

David Friedman writes:

"I realize that I (and I won't speak for my wife) am not a good (read: patient) enough teacher to keep my kids home and teach them for the 2 hours per day it would take for them to keep up with their public school system peers (leaving 11 other waking hour for socialization)."

It doesn't take two hours per day of teaching by a parent or anything close. There are books, the internet, other kids, lots of resources for learning things other than being taught by an adult.

Both of the children of my current marriage were first unschooled in a very small and unconventional private school and then home unschooled—total classroom time or equivalent, at home or at school, close to zero. As best I can tell, they ended up better educated than most of their age peers, despite no curriculum, no homework, no required study, just lots of encouragement, conversation, and the like.

Sort of the way I learn things.

As to socialization, I think making children spend most of their time in age segregated groupings where everyone is a direct competitor and status competition likely to be a primary activity results in less attractive socialization than letting them interact with a range of ages. As they will be doing for the rest of their lives.

Finally, I suggest that some of the patterns of libertarian belief being noticed represent not the presence of libertarian beliefs but the failure to conform to current liberal orthodoxy.

David C writes:

Of the 3 points:

1) IQ - agree
but being against IQ testing's validity seems to me like an outsider position anyway
2) home schooling - no opinion
3) population growth - lean against but no opinion
but most people are in favor of population growth I think

Blackadder, do you have a link to the study on home schooling you're referencing? I'm curious about how it controlled for differences in demographics.

Scott H. writes:

Just checking ...

I'm indifferent about the death penalty. Kill the guy or stick him in a cage for the rest of his life. What do I care?

I tend to not agree with much about religious people's religious beliefs, but I don't fear them.

I think libertarian presidential candidates should dress better and shave.

I favor legalized marijuana, but not doctors prescribing it for bogus reasons. It seems our drug policy must always taint something.

Global warming? I think that most libertarians wouldn't mind letting that science cook for a while before we restructure society around it. Good thing all those world government progressives already had the solutions ready!

Shangwen writes:

Home schooling generally creeps me out. I know that there are many who do it well, but there is a large number who don't and seem to spend lots of time making shrill pro-home-schooling rants akin to the anti-vaccine crowd. I think I am #4 so far to decline home schooling as incidentally libertarian, so I pronounce it expenumbrated. (I do, however, reject western governments' near-monopoly on education.)

I think there is an understandable but mistaken bias in many posts and other discussions, to the idea that libertarians are hyper-rational. Although this is what generally freaks people out ("Did you know that minimum wages/occupational licensing/trade barriers/etc. are evil?"), I also notice many libertarians with wacko ideas italicized by an unyielding defense of perfectionism. That is neither rational nor good, though there are some like Russ Roberts who also evangelize superbly and present a nuanced case.

To the list, I would add:
- Most likely to be deliberate non-voters
- Least likely to be, outside political discussions, inclined to hysteria
- Least likely to have ideological hate-ons for people with different views. I think a good understanding of incentives and an accepting nature of humanity as flawed contribute to this.

Ray writes:

Carl:
Although I do not necessarily trust teachers to do a legitimate job of imparting lasting knowledge and skills to children, I trust them a hell of a lot more than over-protective parents.

Yikes! That's straight out of Rousseau's social contract.

More to the point of the post, and acknowledging that every camp has their fringe element which I will leave out of my generalizations - libertarians are more likely to:

1 - mind their own business. That might sound overly broad, but that is huge and it seems to differentiate solid conservatives from real libertarians. (Good conservatives always seem to have an evil twin appear as soon as they are in a position to impose their will on someone else.)

2 - Be skeptical of public consensus. This includes global warming of course. The criticism of this skepticism on GW seems to stem from others needing to categorize everyone in to two extreme camps that are based solely on political agenda and not an actual desire for the truth. This skepticism applies to other such phenomenon as well - see Russ Roberts' recent podcasts on the vaccination scare.

3 - They tend to be more open to new information. This is almost by definition since one has to make an effort to be informed and not be part of the two party agenda seeking majority.

Andy Hallman writes:

The reason libertarians often downplay global warming is much more straightforward than most of the commenters have made it out to be. If libertarians grant the premise that global warming is significant and that it's caused by humans, both libertarians and liberals see that this strengthens the liberal, not the libertarian, position.

Of course, it does not prove the liberal position is correct, but it would make the liberal position look better in the eyes of the general public, and libertarians do not want that.

Gu Si Fang writes:

Agreement between Free bankers and advocates of 100% banking to remove Legal tender Laws and deposit insurance.

agnostic writes:

They have less of a Romantic streak (or none at all), being bigger fans of Reason.

(That doesn't have to follow from the liberty principle, since there is a small minority of left libertarians like Chomsky who do have a strong Romantic streak.)

Related to that, libertarians have less appreciation for the sublime, being more interested in the beautiful. They're less concerned with being overwhelmed by an experience (Ghostbusters, Aliens) and more concerned with partaking of an example of good taste (Woody Allen stuff from the '70s and '80s).

Salem writes:

In my experience - and this ties into the IQ thing - libertarians tend to press harder on genetics/personal responsibility and less hard on social factors/indirect incentives to explain human actions. So for example, libertarians seem to disproportionately reject ideas like "crime is caused by poverty."

Contra Andy Hallman, I don't think these positions are bad faith, it's just as likely that causation goes the other way - i.e. if you become convinced that crime causes poverty or that there's something we can do about global warming, you might stop being a libertarian.

Stefano writes:

population growth has major economic benefits because people are "the ultimate resource." Notice: A statist who took this idea seriously could easily argue for government intervention to raise the birth rate.

Fascist Italy gave prizes to families who had many children. The same I think did also Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.

The reasoning was more on the lines of more people == larger armies, than people as intellectual resource, though.

nazgulnarsil writes:

4. Distrust of democracy.

I can't wrap my head around the amount of doublethink necessary for this statement to come out of the mouth of an economics professor. You cringe when someone is distrustful of democracy? seriously?

Mick Rolland writes:

I consider myself a classical liberal/libertarian, and I would signal my VERY strong opposition regarding IQ testing. I have always refused to do an IQ test on principle. I regard them as very "soviet" way of prejudging and ranking people, with an oversimplified result.

Classical Liberalism is for merit and also accepting existing differences in natural talents, but not for establishing 'elites' or stratifying people on dubious grounds such as IQ tests, that don't recognize the complexity and multiformity of intelligence. A single number to sum up the intelligence of a man!

drobviousso writes:

It was mentioned above once, but I find sci fi fandom to be very libertarian heavy. I don't know if this is the chicken, or the egg, but some of the best sci fi is very libertarian.

I agree that libertarians tend to share views that are not strictly part of libertarianism--and this is interesting and useful to note. Also interesting that one can do this without dredging up the confused/useless/overhyped notion of "thickism".

Re Sumner's list -- not sure what he means by "Crackpot theories of money/macro" but most libertarians favor gold and sound money, which is not crackpot; what's crackpot is the current monetary system.

As for global warming denial--seems pretty clear we are in an interglacial period and things will eventually start cooling, even if they warm for a while before the cooling starts. As for "Distrust of democracy"--there are perfectly good and even libertarian grounds for this. Democracy is clearly incompatible with libertarianism.

LTPhillips writes:

Libertarians are optimistic about the future, believing that new technologies and human ingenuity will improve the human condition. Libertarians don't fear the future, they embrace it!

Jr writes:

I thought of the global warming thing as well but surely that has to do with the "consequences of liberty" that Brian speaks of. Not that the current emissions took place in a libertarian world of course but it seems unlikely that a freer market would have generated lower emissions, for all the gasoline subsidies and government oil companies in the world.

Floccina writes:

I think that libertarians tend to be more rational and data driven and so are less likely to, for example, fear heath effects of pesticides in food.

Oddly enough I think libertarians tend to be more skeptical consumers.

RS writes:

I've noticed the Sci-Fi trait, as well.

I've also been noticing a libertarian drift towards understanding physics/quantum mechanics.

DCordeiro writes:

There seems to be a tremendous amout of prejudice and misinformation attached to the loaded term "home schooling."

In our experience, families are better understood on a continuum from those who believe that the local school board is better at deciding what constitues a good academic and social education to those parents who believe that they are capable of knowing what is best for their children.

Parents of this second type will often send their children to public or private schools if they believe they are getting a good return on their investment. However, they will also often supplement to fill the gaps between what is provided by the institution and their own idea of a good education.

For many parents they reach a point where the time or money spent in the institution are a worse ROI than that derived from supplementing. At this time they might sever their ties with the institution and become "home schoolers" but this is usually a reversible decision that is re-evaluated constantly.

My experience is that children of this second group of parents are far better socialized and accomplished than children of the first set.

Thinking that individuals are better able to choose and pursue values than government bureaucrats seems perfectly in accord with libertarian thinking and is far more important than getting hung up on fashionable and overly broad terms like "home schooling."

Andy Hallman writes:

Hi Salem.

Contra Andy Hallman, I don't think these positions are bad faith, it's just as likely that causation goes the other way - i.e. if you become convinced that crime causes poverty or that there's something we can do about global warming, you might stop being a libertarian.

I suppose libertarians are arguing in bad faith in that they aren't entirely driven by an unbiased search for the truth. But that's true of everyone, so I don't single libertarians out for this.

People form their values and their beliefs about reality simultaneously. Examples of libertarianism's failure can turn someone off to libertarianism. But once someone has a taste for libertarianism, they will tend to look for confirming evidence of that theory and dismiss evidence against it.

I should point out that I'm not taking a position on climate change (either its causes or effects), but providing an explanation for why libertarians have the view they do.

twv writes:

The non-libertarian belief common amongst libertarians — often, indeed, used by libertarians while arguing for liberty — is that "people are basically good."

Youths in unconstrained groups of their peers tend to be quite cruel. When these groups are adjunct to the slave society of public schools, they become, perhaps, even more cruel. (See David Henderson's two excellent posts, above.)

I've long pondered: What do libertarians think the origin of anti-liberty social system are? Intellectual mistakes? Sure. But not just that. The impulse to form in-groups and dump on out-groups is quite strong in human beings, as it the love of cruelty while feeling self-righteous. Human beings are, in their political attitudes, often amazingly wicked. The desire to live at others' expense is often quite integral with human nature, too. All these aspects of human nature are just as core as the forbearance that liberty requires, and justice demands.

I find the notion that "humans are basically good" to be one of the great puzzles of your "libertarian penumbra."

Dan Patrick writes:

Often tech/computer savvy
Predisposed to NT on the Myers-Briggs
Tendency to like nerdy things (sci-fi, role-playing games, trading card games, video games, museums, robots, transhumanism)

Cringe-worthy: Poor social skills, bad fashion sense, tendency to defend negative aspects of current capitalism as if it were a free market (what Kevin Carson calls "vulgar libertarianism")...

Doc Merlin writes:

@Mark Plus:

"Doesn't the gold standard impose a Malthusian constraint on the human population? "The ultimate resource" invented fractional reserve lending and fiat money to get around that constraint, but many libertarians want to shackle the human mind when it comes to this particular resource."

No, not at all. The AMOUNT of money doesn't matter in the long run, remember only shocks in the amount of money or changes in interest rates matter.

@twv:
'I find the notion that "humans are basically good" to be one of the great puzzles of your "libertarian penumbra."'

No we don't believe that at all.

We believe they are rationally self interested, which can be either good or bad depending on the environment we are in and the 'rules of the game.'

@Scott Sumner:
"4. Distrust of democracy."

Have you not read Buchanan, Arrow, etc? There are many, many good reasons to distrust democracy, even if it is on the whole better than autocracy.

Doc Merlin writes:

@michael:

"Belief in homeopathic medicine, often coupled with a rejection of modern medicine. It seems to correlate with the [wise] opposition to the FDA"

I haven't noticed this at all among libertarians, but I have on the far left.

James writes:

I've not noticed any libertarian interest in homeopathic medicine, but I think libertarians are more interested than others in non-mainstream approaches to healthy living.

Libertarians seem to be unusually attracted to stuff like paleolithic and low carb eating, crossfit workouts, and sports like Brazillian jujitsu. Maybe it stems from greater willingness to deviate from social norms, but libertarians seem to be involved this stuff with far more frequency than chance would dictate.

Ray writes:

James:
Libertarians seem to be unusually attracted to stuff like paleolithic and low carb eating, crossfit workouts, and sports like Brazillian jujitsu.

Very interesting. That describes me pretty closely.

BJJ I haven't identified any other libertarians where we train but since your overall observation seems so accurate I'll accept it at face value for now.

Paleo I was eating like this before the paleo studies began to be popular, but I can see how to make the connection between how we view markets and how we view our bodies/diets. i.e. the more you tamper with it, the more screwed up it gets. So all of these false incentives such as refined flour and sugar are analogous to the screwed up incentives that the government inserts into the economy.

Crossfit Never done it, but years ago I worked as a personal trainer, and came away with a mindset on fitness that seems to parallel what I've read about crossfit.

Very interesting observations, that will stick in my head for awhile.

twv writes:

Prof. Sumner's point about individualism confused me:

7. Confusing individualism with libertarianism.

Which of the twenty-odd definitions/meanings of individualism does he object to libertarian conflating with libertarianism?

All of them? One in particular?

currency libertarian writes:

"Examples of libertarianism's failure can turn someone off to libertarianism. "

FYI, by definition liberterianism can't "fail" because libertarianism values individual liberty over all the other measures of social construction. therefore an economic, geopolitical, class warfare, or other "failure" would not be a libertarian "failure" as long as the government has little or no power.

Ayn R. Key writes:

Re Democracy:

Libertarians tend to focus much more on what a government does than how it is chosen. All things being equal a libertarian will favor a democratic form, but "all things being equal" is wide enough to fit the entire universe with room to spare.

A libertarian monarchy is preferable to a democratic tyranny, although a libertarian democracy is preferable to a libertarian monarchy.

What I've noticed in myself is a growing indifference toward social taboos. It used to be, when I was converted to libertarianism, that I thought other people's "immoral" behavior should perhaps be frowned upon, and should maybe invite boycotts and shunning, but should not punished by The State.

Today, however, I don't judge people for their personal behavior hardly at all. By and large, I endorse the breaking of taboos. I like to see people pushing the envelope.

I wonder if other libertarians have also become more and more personally tolerant, moving from the position of "It should be legal, but it's bad," to "It should be legal, and probably isn't all that bad, even if it's not for me."

Kent Guida writes:

This game could be a lot of fun. Here are some nominations:

1. Bathing is for sissies.
2. Computer code is the highest form of poetry.
3. Courtesy is a sign of degenerate altruism.
4. If your child walks on my grass and I blow his head off, it's his own damn fault. Or maybe your own damn fault.
5. Science fiction is the highest form of political philosophy.

fender writes:

I think the issues are strictly determined by the context we are living in. Proto-libertarians had democratic biases when living under monarchy and many contemporary libertarians have monarchic bias (vide Hoppe). The same is with the right to self-defense and school coercion. These are the reasons of libertarian focus on home-schooling and right to own fire-arms(examples showing that division of labor brings profits only when voluntary). Imagine a parallel world with compulsory home-schooling and illicit outer-education; the same with compulsory weapon ownership and ban on renting police agancies. Libertarian focuses would certainly be altered.

Cosmos writes:

As libertarians, we staunchly believe in freedom of association. Therefore, if the owner of a private business wants to refuse to serve certain customers based on race for example, we would have to legally support him on this position. This makes me cringe but I see no other way. Sign me up for the boycott.

"Overlooking the importance of having a "civic-minded" culture, such as you observe in Denmark."

Speaking as a Dane ... something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The country is certainly not the worst place in the world or the one with the least "civic-minded culture" in the world, but speaking with some experience on the matter, both personal and academic, I would say that there is not enough civic-minded culture (at least anymore) to speak of when making comparisons with other countries. Having also lived twice in the US, both times in big cities, I can confirm that there is a whole lot more of civic-minded culture in the US (even in the big cities) than in Denmark. In some parts of the US it is probably as extensive and important as anywhere in the world. Furthermore, if one were to "control" for the role played by the small-ness of Denmark as a society (in inducing good behaviour), I think that my country does quite poorly. Denmark may have had a strikingly civic-minded culture until the mid-60s or so (or may not--I was not around), but if so then it disappeared with the advance of extensive redistribution, "modernization" of society in general and considerable immigration. These are not all bad changes--quite on the contrary--but they arguably have had a negative effect on some aspects of Denmark's culture.

Kalim Kassam writes:

(American) libertarians are almost all:

* capitalist

* anti-anti-consumerist

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