Is the Libertarian Party Good for Anything?

It’s been pointed out to me that I was perhaps a bit too harsh in last week’s article, What Libertarianism Is and What Libertarianism Is Not. In that article, I lambaste the Libertarian Party and its current comedy revue of a presidential ticket for being terrible exemplars of libertarianism; indeed, my pithy Facebook summary read in part "there is nothing libertarian about the Libertarian Party." I stand by every word I wrote in both article and summary; the Libertarian Party is currently miles afield of what it actually means to be a libertarian. I checked: the phrase "non-aggression principle" appears only twice on the party’s web site, once in a quote from Ron Paul describing the great Mary Ruwart’s book, Healing Our World, and once as the title of a talk to be given at the 2014 Libertarian Party of Oklahoma state convention. The fact that the core principle of the libertarian philosophy goes effectively unmentioned on the Libertarian Party’s web site speaks volumes.

All of which is not to say, however, that the Libertarian Party is completely worthless. It’s terrible at spreading libertarian ideas, to be sure, but it’s effective at attracting people who are beginning to think libertarian thoughts; in a sense, it’s sort of like a big magnet that helps to draw in what Albert Jay Nock called the "Remnant." Many people are drawn to the Libertarian Party because they’ve noticed that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans offer a single alternative to endless war, and many others because they’ve begun to realize what a cruel, inhuman farce the drug war is — at this time, those are the two major issues that push people in the libertarian direction, and the Libertarian Party is there to catch the pushees.


Why Socialism Is Impossible

Libertarians traditionally do a terrible job of explaining why socialism can’t work. Which is to say: we’re great at explaining it to other libertarians, but we think we can talk to our Bernie Sanders-supporter friends the same way. If you’re talking to someone who doesn’t already understand the problem, and you just say something like "in a socialist environment there can’t be market prices," you have to realize that person will think that’s a feature, not a bug. Most of us libertarians know about the socialist calculation problem, but to the wider audience it’s pretty esoteric stuff; it’s not just plainly intuitive to most people that the absence of market prices causes discoördination in production. Either way, it seems like ultimately you have some guy deciding what products, and how many, to make. Can’t we just put those successful entrepreneurs — the Bill Gateses and Jeff Bezoses of the world — in charge of the planning boards and have it work just fine?

This, of course, is where libertarians tend to fall down. We’re great at extolling the virtues of the entrepreneur, but, in a very significant sense, we miss the most important element: what’s critical about entrepreneurs is not that they make amazing, successful things, but that they’re able to fail in a controlled manner. When a product fails on the market, only the entrepreneur and those closely connected to him suffer, which is important for two reasons: first because it means that random people, uninvolved with the failed project, don’t have to bear the cost of the failure, and second because, by concentrating that cost on the people responsible, the failure is made immediately apparent, and the pressure to cease failing is substantial. Amazon’s Fire Phone, by all accounts, was a neat piece of technology, but nobody cared enough to buy one, and Amazon cut it loose after a few months of disappointing performance. Microsoft’s Windows 8 suffered a similar poor reception, which encouraged the company to proceed in a new direction (and quite swiftly!) with its replacement. While the successes are, of course, the ultimate goal of the market economy — the production of goods and services people want — the only thing that makes those successes possible is the market’s robust failure mechanism. When governments attempt to "soften the blow" of failure by socializing the losses, that not only creates a massive injustice (as innocent people unconnected to the failure are now forced to pay for it), but it also encourages businesses to linger in failed products and failed practices longer than they should.



Last Week in Weird

I ain’t afraid of no jokes

When it comes to trolling, alt-right wunderkind Milo Yiannopoulos — whose name I had to check four times to make sure I spelled correctly — is the very best, like no one ever was. You may recall some months back, when he was mysteriously "unverified" on Twitter, as though suddenly it had become unclear if he was the real deal or perhaps a pod creature or some type of replicant. Well now he’s upped the ante a bit: Yiannopoulos has been officially permanently banned from Twitter. His crime? He irritated Leslie Jones, who is apparently famous, but who I had honestly never heard of until this story broke. Jones was indeed so flustered by Yiannopoulos’ horrible racist harassment campaign that she abandoned Twitter entirely.

The ironic masterstroke, of course, is that Yiannopoulos did not send the tweets that so infuriated Jones. He was, indeed, one of the targets of the tweets, which were sent by an account impersonating Jones. None of this appears to matter to the social justice crowd, who apparently view Jones’ blackness as being higher on the victimhood hierarchy than is Yiannopoulos’ homosexuality. It’s also cute to observe that, just last week, I was pointing out that it’s no longer important for hate crimes to contain any hate or any crime, and now just one short week later it’s not even important if the hate criminal actually did what he’s accused of. But what about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s constant quacking about how Twitter "doesn’t censor?" As Buzzfeed’s bizarrely gleeful summary explains it:

According to the company, Yiannopoulos’s permanent suspension isn’t a matter of speech as much as a matter of behavior — specifically, a violation of Twitter’s rules regarding the targeted abuse of specific users.


On Voting

I’ve always been firmly planted on the "against" side of the big "should libertarians vote" debate, so I was pleased to discover that, in a recent episode of The Tom Woods Show, Jeff Deist made the case for why libertarians shouldn’t vote in a much more lucid and succinct manner than I’ve ever heard it presented. The whole interview’s worth listening to, of course — Woods and Deist are always engaging and insightful — but I’ll quote the relevant portion below for your perusal.

Here’s why I tell people they can’t get emotionally attached to Hillary, or to Trump, or even to Gary Johnson, and that they, in my opinion anyway, shouldn’t vote for any of the three, and it’s very simple: at some point, regardless of who wins, regardless of your take on the "lesser of evils" argument (which applies equally to Gary Johnson, I might add) — regardless of your take on that, at some point, whoever is president is going to order bombs to be dropped somewhere, and at some point the person for whom you pulled the lever is going to be responsible for a young child somewhere, probably in the Islamic world, laying there with his arm blown off or something like this, and I think that no libertarian ought to live with that, or to give that his or her sanction. So that’s why I try very hard to be emotionally detached from this, to view things as they are, and to simply not vote — not as some great, noble gesture on my part, but just as a tiny drip, another drop in the bucket, hopefully, of people who don’t sanction this whole sordid affair.


What Libertarianism Is and What Libertarianism Is Not

I have people asking me why I don’t support Gary Johnson’s presidential campaign. He’s the Libertarian Party nominee, after all — as a libertarian, shouldn’t I support him, if only to get more exposure for libertarianism? It’s an argument that’s not without a basis, but there’s a bit of question begging involved, since it tacitly asserts that more exposure for Johnson and the LP (and, hilariously, William Weld) will lead to more exposure for libertarianism. I’m not convinced this is the case; it seems more likely merely to bring more attention to the kind of bastardized, milquetoast libertarianism that even has room for Mitt Romney and Jeb!. I consider myself a "big tent" libertarian, but if the tent has gotten so big that it can accommodate not just William Weld but Jeb Bush, we’ve clearly left the big top behind in favor of the sideshow.

The real problem is one of definition; many "movement" libertarians simply don’t understand what libertarianism actually is. There’s a substantial cohort out there with the (entirely correct) conviction that both the Republican and Democratic parties are disastrous and the desire to fix the system. These people latch on to the Libertarian Party because it’s an alternative with some appealing talking points, and not because they truly understand libertarianism and want to promote it. So far, there’s nothing wrong with any of this; we all have to start somewhere, and I myself was once that exact person, so please don’t read me as being disdainful of people who are attracted to some elements of libertarianism without a fully developed libertarian theory. Unless, that is, those people are in the upper echelons of the Libertarian Party, in which case, yes, please do read me that way.


PIkachu, I mug you!

Last Week in Weird

It’s super effective!

Though this is not explicitly a gaming publication, I have no concern about my readership’s familiarity with Pokémon Go — Nintendo’s augmented-reality monster-catching phenomenon is redefining what it means to be a hit mobile game, having long since drawn a larger user base than previous efforts such as Candy Crush Saga, Twitter, and Google Maps, while bringing in so much revenue that one has to suspect the Bernank himself is giving Nintendo advice on how to print money. Indeed, Pokémon Go has been such a runaway success that New York City assemblyman Felix Ortiz has decided that the game now requires his personal oversight:

"Like any new technology, it has its advantages and disadvantages, and like any new technology, it has to be looked at very, very carefully. Everything comes down to people’s responsibility as well as corporate responsibility," Ortiz said Tuesday. "Every single one of us who might want to play this game have to be very cautious. Who’s sending what, and what is the follow up? Everyone should be cautious to make sure that no intruders will be able to tap into this and have people think they’re going to the park when in reality they’re going to a be targeted by some rapist. People could think they’re going to the bank, but in reality, someone is waiting to take their money."


Last Week in Weird

A new low in identity politics

The big shocking news this past week was that Donald Trump, the most hateful man in America, running for president on the Hate Party ticket with the slogan "Make America Hateful Again," hatefully spoke hate speech about how much he hates the Jews. What horrible effluence of hatred emerged from the Donald’s Twitter feed this time? This hatefully anti-semitic hate picture of Hillary Clinton:



Is the Libertarian Party Against Violence?

This morning, I opened my inbox to find a press release from the Libertarian Party bearing the headline "Libertarian Party Calls for an End to All Violence." This was promising; an end to all violence is more or less exactly what libertarianism seeks, founded as it is upon the rock of the non-aggression principle. The LP, however, has been at best an inconsistent advocate against violence throughout the years, and, indeed, this particular press release turns out to be entirely about killings of and by police officers, and addresses nothing else whatsoever; certainly a more limited scope than one could expect from a call "for an end to all violence."

The killing needs to stop. All of it. None of these shootings were justified — not the shootings by the police, not the shootings of the police. The Libertarian Party denounces all killing.

That’s not a bad start. Surely, though, it can’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that the LP should consider mentioning the endless wars somewhere in its denunciation of all killing, no? Perhaps the issue here is that the LP’s own presidential ticket doesn’t call for ending the wars, preferring instead the weak-kneed and noncommittal stance of "mov[ing] quickly and decisively to refocus U.S. efforts and resources to attack the real threats we face in a strategic, thoughtful way." Apparently, the Libertarian Party only denounces all killing unless it’s sufficiently "thoughtful."


Turn me on, dead man

Last Week in Weird

What an astonishing coincidence!

Sometimes strange things happen that may seem to have some sort of causal relationship with one’s actions, but are really just pure coincidence. The classic example would be "street light interference phenomenon" — people who believe that, when they approach street lights, those street lights are disproportionately more likely to turn off. While boring reality suggests that, actually, the mysterious phenomenon is primarily a product of confirmation bias, to one experiencing it, the effect can seem pretty profound. Similarly, while it’s no doubt purely coincidental, it can certainly seem suspicious that John Ashe, former president of the United Nations General Assembly, accidentally crushed his own throat two days before he was set to testify against Hillary Clinton. Man, what are the chances?

The New York Post’s Page Six reported that after Ashe was found dead Wednesday, the U.N. claimed that he had died from a heart attack. Local police officers in Dobbs Ferry, New York, later disputed that claim, saying instead that he died from a workout accident that crushed his throat. [Lack of italics original]