Why Do Libertarians Fail? Because They Don't Understand Human Nature

Libertarians Have Failed

Libertarians have been trying since the 1970s to carve out a separate political identity for themselves. They have failed. The Libertarian Party is as weak and ineffectual now as it was back in the 1980s when I worked ballot access, gathering petition signatures for Ron Paul, the first time he ran as the Libertarian presidential candidate.

Surveys regularly report some 15 to 20% of the population has strong libertarian leanings. But libertarians cannot coalesce as a political force. Why not? 20% is not much smaller than the number who identify as liberal, but Democrats have no problem getting out the vote for a lot more than their 25%. How do they rally so many more than their true believers, when libertarians can't even get theirs to vote?

Conservatives and liberals both have attractive philosophies, with broad appeal. In every major election, both have at least the potential to capture majorities of the vote. Their insights are understandable to just about everyone, even those who are bitterly opposed.

Libertarians don't. They claim reason and logic, and deploy plenty of forceful arguments, which attract few outside their core. Regardless of whether the libertarians are right or not, they are not convincing. Their arguments do not touch us emotionally. Or if they do, it is in a negative way.

This is rooted in the failure of libertarians to understand basic human nature. It is a failure of empathy.

Cats And Dogs Living Together In One Mind

Cats and Dogs Live In Our Minds

(The above funny was taken from this source. I included it mainly because it is cute and clever, and it leads into my next section, even if it isn't really relevant.)

All normal people have two relevant emotional forces that drive them in opposite directions. I use the cat and dog caricatures to illustrate this. Popularly, dogs are the loyal companions, obedient to their masters, friendly, loving and protective. Cats are independent, looking after themselves, living with humans only to satisfy their own needs and for their own purposes.

These are only stereotypes. Cat people know that cats can be generous, bringing gifts of freshly slain creatures to their owners. Dogs will cheerfully bolt for any open door and run wild given the slightest opportunity. Still, the stereotypes work, if more to describe humans than actual dogs and cats.

All of us, except maybe sociopaths, are some blend of these two personality types, working at cross purposes. Very few people are so superior, so perfect in intellect and physique that they can't admire other people. Most of us have some desire to follow and obey our superiors.

This is our dog mind, and is just as true for liberals as conservatives, even when we express it differently. Marxists called these superior beings the 'vanguard'. Sometimes these people are politicians (witness people fainting at Obama rallies), or great thinkers. For the proletariat it is any beautiful, talented or famous person, a Kim Kardashian or Michael Jordan.

This desire to follow and obey our leaders is rooted in our tribal past, when small groups of closely related people fought a hostile environment to survive. The strongest or wisest person was looked up to and obeyed. Too much independence of thought and action could easily have led to starvation and death for the tribe. Wild youngsters had to be restrained for the good of everyone.

Young men like to fight. Properly controlled and motivated, this was to the tribe's advantage. Taught and directed by experienced adults, they could defend against other tribes, drive off predators, or go to war and steal their neighbor's land and goods. The tribe would flourish. Uncontrolled, they would fight amongst themselves, weakening the tribe, or go out in small groups to fight their neighbors, bringing retribution down on the whole tribe.

A successful tribe was one that controlled and motivated its youth towards what was best for all. Proper respect for the tribe's leaders and adulation for its heroes were necessary elements.

This is the dog element in us, ground in by millions of years of evolution. It is the basic substrate of our social being.

But what about our cat nature? The cat is our independent streak. Our not caring what our 'betters' think, our 'do your own thing' ideal. It's what pushed humans out of Africa and across the entire world. Very few humans can match the charitable selflessness of a saint, living purely for the good of our fellows. We try dangerous things, break traditions, leave home for distant countries, marry outside our race, go against the wishes of our parents and the elite of society.

Without this individualist impulse, we would still be animals. Has any sheep ever had an original idea? If one has, so what? Sheep live now just as their ancestors did a million years ago. Smarter animals like chimps and monkeys can have original ideas, and pass them on to their children. They can invent new ways of finding food, and the whole tribe eventually benefits.

In human history this was the wild young man who disobeys his mother, goes out, and finds a new, fertile valley for his tribe to expand into. Or who goes and lives with the weird people across the river, and comes home with the girl who has figured out a better way to weave cloth. Having a few rule-breakers in society can lead to positive change. Society needs its cats.

Rule-bound dogs see only the damage and destruction this causes. Old industries die and people lose their jobs. Potentially dangerous strangers move into the neighborhood bringing weird-smelling food and unpleasant music.

The positive results are harder to see. The traditional American culture was essentially a lucky blend of British political thought and German culture, with enrichment from other European and eventually world-wide culture. Italian immigration was once terribly controversial. They were Mediterraneans! Catholics! Dark-complected foreigners with violent tendencies!

Funny how that all worked out. Italians now run our major industries, get elected to high office, and make great food.

Everyone, liberals, conservatives and libertarians, is mentally a blend of these two emotional forces. Conservatives claim to be in favor of a well-ordered society of people who follow traditional rules. This is basically true. Liberals claim to be for independence of thought, and freedom. Again, basically true, but not the whole story for either side.

In reality neither is really 'for' either of these, but both are for a clotted-up mishmash of following whom we like and being independent of whom we don't. Both support a weird form of state-capitalism, where favored industries are backed by the government.

President Jimmy Carter bailed out a big car company, and President Obama bailed out two of them. Are they conservatives? Democrats supporting old, traditional industries rather than letting free people choose which companies live or die by how well they serve us, is liberal? Republicans were willing in both cases to let them die, but are happy enough to use government power to support industries they favor.

This is not ideology, but raw tribal emotion, on both sides. Both use government power to support insiders and punish outsiders. This just feels right, to our tribal, primitive selves, and we justify it later with ideology-tainted reason. Anyone across the political spectrum can get on board and ride that train to a political victory.

Republicans, supposed defenders of tradition, had no problem understanding why Democrats wanted to save the car companies. It was for money, power, and control of society. Auto unions favor Democrats, so Democrats favor the unions. Tribes are always incestuous.

Republicans wanted the unions to die, and were willing to sacrifice a few big companies to get it done. Tribal politics. The few die to protect the pack. There is no ideological reason it could not have gone the opposite way, with Republicans fighting to save traditional jobs in the auto companies, and Democrats fighting to kill them.

Democrats and Republicans are both 'dog' parties. Both encourage rule-following in their members, and hero-adulation of their leaders. Bill Clinton is practically a living god, to read what Democrats write of him, and what they say of Barack Obama is even wilder. Remember all those hilarious posters of Obama riding a unicorn?. Ronald Reagan is the Republican foil.

Looking at their respective records as leaders, neither was a paragon of the virtues the parties claim to represent. Reagan ran up a huge deficit. Clinton sharply cut welfare programs for the poor. None of that matters, to their tribes of followers. They won, they kicked their enemies' butts. For the tribal partisan, it doesn't really matter how.

Why Libertarians Fail

Libertarians are cats. In libertarians, the drive for freedom, personal control of one's own life and destiny is paramount, and the tribe is secondary.

Most people feel this drive to some extent. We don't like to be told what to do, we want to spend our money for the things we like, and we don't like that money to be taken and spent by others with different values. Libertarians take this to its logical extreme. (But libertarians are not anarchists, who take it to its illogical extreme.)

Opponents of libertarianism like to cast stones, build up straw man and knock them down. Libertarians make this easy. For example, both conservatives and liberals like to claim that libertarians believe in atomistic individualism. This is a straw man because it is basically untrue for the great majority of libertarians. Libertarians are not sociopaths. They believe in mutual, voluntary association, not no association. Libertarians are for private charitable organizations, for example, but completely against public charity. This puts them against many conservatives and nearly all liberals.

Liberals tend to believe (liberals, please correct me if I am wrong or exaggerating here) that private charity may be nice, but it can never be great enough or reliable enough to take care of the huge needs of the less fortunate. Greedy rich, personal prejudice or shortsightedness would inevitably result in many people with real needs being left to starve.

Conservatives also generally believe there should be at least some sort of safety net supplied by the government to prevent acute poverty, if not the more extensive welfare endorsed by liberals. All three groups agree on the need. Liberals and conservatives mostly agree on the means, a government-supplied system bolstered by private action. Libertarians disagree only on the means, and advocate a purely private charity system.

This has little attraction for the average person. Private charity doesn't allow for the clash of rival gangs, the political parties. It has no heroes of the faith, like politics. There would be no Reagan or Clinton or Obama to give stirring speeches about the evils of their opponents.

Why not? Because, in a private system, there are no human opponents to poverty. (Hell, everyone hates poverty!) There are only poor people to be helped. It doesn't appeal to the human drive to idolize our heroes and demonize our enemies. Where would Obama be today without those wicked Republicans conspiring to starve poor blacks or push grandma off that cliff? What words could he use to rouse the masses to hysteria, if the fight were just against poor schools, or unemployment?

Without the Republicans, President Obama would still be a community organizer in Chicago, working out of a dirty office on the South Side. Without the Democrats, Mitt Romney would be nothing but another successful businessman. It is the fight that rouses our tribal instincts, not the cause of the fight. If poverty were conquered, we would find something else.

Libertarians will never appeal to a broad class of Americans, for the simple reason that libertarianism is too cat-like, too individualistic. Our bedrock human nature is the dog. The cat is a later, weaker graft. Packs of dogs can always kill any number of cats. Libertarianism can never succeed as a mass movement until it finds popular leaders and creates visible, human enemies to fight. We argue in favor of freedom, individualism, capitalism, and against fascism and socialism. All those 'isms'.

People need human enemies, and human heroes to make a political party. Sorry libertarians, Ron Paul doesn't quite fit the bill.

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Why Libertarians Fail Comments 61 comments

dzephaniah profile image

dzephaniah 4 years ago from Florida

Intelligent and thoughtful article and it makes sense. I agree with some of the points, although not all.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Thanks. Appreciate the feedback. Any specific points you particularly don't like?


dzephaniah profile image

dzephaniah 4 years ago from Florida

I want to assure you that there is nothing that I don't like. I just have a slightly different theory that is too lengthy to explain here. I might write a hub about it in the future.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Please do. I followed you, so I'll see it when it hits. There are lots of reasons libertarianism hasn't caught on like we had hoped. This is only one.


klurbauer profile image

klurbauer 4 years ago from Brink of Insanity ;)

I found this Hub interesting and somewhat amusing as well. I normally identify myself to others as a Libertarian, though I usually vote for a mainstream party candidate. I guess I pretty much agree with the idea of not wasting my vote by voting for a third party candidate, thus enabling the OTHER main party candidate (the one I don't prefer) to win the election. Anyway, I certainly identified with your "cat" comparison. Well-written and I look forward to reading more of your material. Thanks!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Thanks Klurbauer. I vote for libertarians when possible, but usually can't.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Tom,

I left a reply to some of your points at Power and Control. You might like this:

http://classicalvalues.com/2012/06/a-rally-report/ - A Rally Report


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Tom,

One other thing to consider. I'm an engineer. About 1/2 the engineers I have come into contact with are libertarians. About 1/3 conservatives. About 1/6th liberals. That may not be the exact division but I chose the numbers as an off the top of my head approximation where the numbers add up to 1. How engineering.

Libertarianism is a rational system. Most people are not rational. So how did we start out with a mostly libertarian system? We got tricked into it by some very rational people with direct experience of despotism. The Constitutional Convention.

At this point the impulses are so attenuated that I feel (heh) that we are going to need a little more experience with despotism before we will return to our roots.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

I also made some comments at Classical Values with a link back to here:

http://classicalvalues.com/2012/07/a-social-look-a...


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Thanks for coming over, Mr Simon.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Tom,

You will like this one:

http://classicalvalues.com/2012/07/bending-them-to...

also go to the main page and read my "Forgetting The Jewish Tradition"


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Tom,

Where in Illinois are you? If we are neighbors I'd like to get together.

My e-mail addy is on the sidebar at: http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/


Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

Good Hub. You made me think about Libertarianism in a way that I hadn't before, and I realized that I even agree with some of its positions (as you defined them) even though I am something of a moderate Democrat. And I loved the dog vs. cat analogy.

I think that one reason the two main political parties are able to wield a wide share of support is through their ability to build coalitions. For example, the Republican Party's coalition is made up of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and special interests that support big business. The Democratic Part's coalition is made up of African Americans, Jews, Unions and special interests that support big business. A party has to be able to unite all of these different groups, even though their own interests may clash.

Anyway, that is my theory. Thanks for an interesting hub.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Nathan, I am pretty much with you on how you define the parties. It is interesting how the parties change over time. It wasn't really so long ago that many Republicans were more or less for abortion, and many were against guns. Democrats used to be the Christian party right up through Jimmy Carter's era.

Libertarians are one of the many branches of the 'Right' but we are not very happy there. We are just more unhappy with the left.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Nathan, Tom,

You might find this of interest:

classicalvalues.com/2012/02/the-ptsd-party/ The PTSD Party

Especially follow the track back in the comments (here is the link)

classicalvalues.com/2012/03/it-has-a-purpose/

To Eric's article on PTSD and mass murdering politicians.


Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

tmbridgeland,

Politics and political history is a fascinating topic, and not a day goes by when I don't learn something new about it. I find it amusing that you say Libertarians are not happy with the right, but are less happy with the left. It amuses me because I have the same mindset, in reverse; mad at the left, madder at the right.

MLSimon, thanks for the links!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

:-) Sigh. What are we gonna do? Just keep working in from the edges, I guess. By the way, Nathan, Mr Simon and others have some interesting stuff up at Classical Values. Simon's bug is the drug war. I generally agree with him but have less interest in the topic. I think the right supports the drug war because they want to protect people from themselves. The left also the same, more or less, but for the far left there is the added benefit that it greatly increases the central government's ability to control society. Not drugs, but rather the whole apparatus of the 'war' itself. Leftists seem simply mesmerized by the idea of controlling society from the center.

That is the main reason libertarians are generally considered on the 'right' in America. The US version of the right is not as centrally biased as the left, and libertarians prefer local/small government solutions to problems when at all possible. So we line up pretty easily with certain other right factions. Less well with others, such as the drug warriors, whom we consider at least potential threats.


Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

Now that I can agree with.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Tom, Nathan,

Our economic system is not at all what it seems. It is capitalist but greased by criminals.

http://classicalvalues.com/2012/08/terrorists-deal...

Follow the links back to the Catherine Austin Fitts articles.

In that vein WW2 in the Pacific was a dope war. They don't teach that in the history books. Look up "Japan Manchuria opium" and "Japan French Indochina" also "McCoy the Politics of Heroin" . As much as I hate his politics Larouche is right the Queen Deals Dope. It all started when the Brits conquered India.

The Bush's are up to their ears in it.

http://www.ctrl.org/boodleboys/boddlesboys2.html


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

The most amusing thing to me in all of this is that I'm nominally on the right but I'm working with some very committed Progressives (and a few libertarians) to end the Prohibition of all Drugs.

Another thing I'm wondering - every country in the world (through their intel agencies if in no other way) has to know about the Dope system. Any one of them has the ability to bring it all down. Why in 300 years hasn't it happened? The next question. Why is it happening now? I am convinced that the powers are letting the system fall. In what way has it become more of a liability than an asset?


Nathan Orf profile image

Nathan Orf 4 years ago from Virginia

MLSimon,

I agree with you on the ban against drugs. It is an outrageously stupid policy that ends up putting way too many, otherwise harmless and law abiding, people into prison, which just helps contribute to the skyrocketing costs of maintaining state and federal prisons. As a Moderate Democrat with some Progressive leanings myself, I will happily jump into the bandwagon.

I would say that our economic problems are really not about capitalism or corporate greed or what have you. It is our culture of consumerism that causes problems, i.e, when Americans use credit cards too much and spend money they don't have. And advertisements that encourage that behavior. But we do live in a free country, where speech is protected by the Constitution, so that is a problem best left to the Judiciary to solve.

Are you referring to government when you mention that the "powers are letting the system fail?"

By the way, thanks for the links. I checked some of them out and they seem interesting.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Nathan,

It is not possible to discuss the subject intelligently until you have read the background material.

Do some serious research on the material in my comment beginning with "Our economic system is not at all what it seems. It is capitalist but greased by criminals."

The problem is not nearly explained by "consumerism" or "greed" or "unwillingness to work" or any of the other common explanations.

In fact the core of our problem does not even touch on any of the things I have so far covered. Important as they are. It is spiritual.

An unwillingness to LOVE. All the rest flow from that.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 4 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

A comment at this post makes it clear:

http://classicalvalues.com/2012/08/a-market-correc...

"I can understand how many would not want to pull the plug on the bogus drug war, since it would be a dangerous shock to our economy. But I say go ahead and do it. What good is all our wealth (a big collective “our” there) if it is built on the continued suffering of millions of innocent people? I’d prefer to collapse back into the stone age and have a clear conscience."

I said in reply - "My sentiments exactly."

It is not profiting from the misery of others that is the problem. After all there are doctors. It is the profiting from the INTENTIONAL infliction of misery on others.


DanShielding profile image

DanShielding 4 years ago

If you're a powerful special interest group, and you want the government to intervene in the economy and spend billions of dollars on your products, services or cause, which politicians are the better investment? Big spending Democrats and Republicans, or Libertarians who oppose big government spending and intervention? I think it's pretty obvious. You cannot buy big spending, government intervention, political favors from principled Libertarians. So Libertarians are far less likely to acquire the big money and thus power necessary to dominate national politics. Isn't that a simpler explanation? (Perhaps I’m being too much of a cat.) ;)


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hello DanShielding. Sure, I wouldn't want to push my interpretation too far. However, I do think it is worth asking why libertarianism doesn't catch on with voters. Special interest groups wouldn't be interested in funding real libertarians, but why do voters constantly reject them, at all levels of government?


Mahndisa 4 years ago

This was brilliant.


DanShielding profile image

DanShielding 4 years ago

"why do voters constantly reject them" well, from my perspective, the way you typically get elected is by spending large amounts of money on advertising, media exposure, etc. in order to get your name in front of voters and to spread fear mongering ads about your opponent so voters will vote for you. Something libertarians cannot do as effectively without those large budgets. As a result, most voters don't even know the libertarian candidates exist. All they hear about is Romney vs. Obama all day every day until they vote. As a result, they figure one of those guys is going to win, so they better vote for the lesser of two evils to prevent their more evil opponent from winning. And if the more evil opponent wins, they better vote for as many congressional representatives as they can from the other party to stop him from achieving his evil plans!

If the voter is libertarian, and they face reality, they know their vote in most cases is statistically insignificant. Their candidate typically doesn't stand a chance against the marketing budgets of the democrat and republican candidates. Their vote for a libertarian is not going to have any meaningful effect on the results. So why bother.

Then there are the potential libertarian voters who oppose the entire election process. They see it as two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner. And they choose not to participate because they view it as initiating force on others.

There may be exceptions at the local level, but for the most part, this is how I'd describe the current system.

I totally agree with you that people latch onto heroes and villains and that libertarians are not pack animals in one sense. I'm an excellent example of what you're talking about. I'm a libertarian. In fact I'm a voluntaryist. I cannot stand tribalism, what could be called the pack mentality. But it's a little different than the way you described. I'm definitely not a cat. Yes, I don't like the pack mentality, but that's because it favors one arbitrary group of humans over another. My political party vs. yours. My country vs. yours. My ethnicity vs. yours. My religion vs. yours. Most of which are just accidents of birth, characteristics or beliefs inherited from their guardians. I can't stand those types of packs. They divide humans into opposing groups. As you described, they see their leader as the hero and the other group's leader as the villain. Tribalism turns people into enemies, leads to conflict, and prevents mutually beneficial relationships and interactions.

I think differently. I don't have more loyalty to Americans than I do to Persians for example. As a libertarian or voluntaryist, I view the entire human race as my pack. The entire human population. I want what's best for human beings in general. So in that sense, I'm a dog on steroids. The villain is anything that causes more human suffering. Anything that prevents an increase in our quality of life as human beings. Anything that threatens my pack, the human species.

I also have a very tiny pack. My close loved ones. If I had to choose between saving my daughter's life and saving a random stranger's life, you bet your buns I'd save my daughter without hesitation. But I would not violate my ethics to do so. I would not initiate coercion against any human. I'd happily kill another species to provide her with medicine. But I would never kill an innocent person to do so.

What do you think of this? Could it be that many Libertarians are pack animals? That they just define their packs differently in a way that is not conducive to winning political elections?


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

DanShielding, good argument. Thanks. I agree with pretty much everything you said. I have come to believe the 'voting is initiation of force' argument is bogus, though, at least in the US. There is another Hub of mine floating around somewhere where I explain why. I don't expect many other libertarians to agree with me though...

I would be interested in your opinion as to why, when liberals are only a few percent higher in the US than libertarians, they manage to convince some 50% of the population to go along with them, while libertarians can't even get others of their 'own' to vote. It can't all be money. There are plenty of rich libertarians who have spent fortunes on politics, and got nowhere. I think my theory here explains at least some of it.


Mr-Mediocre profile image

Mr-Mediocre 4 years ago

I enthusiastically agree with the last paragraph and was going to write something about all of the 'wars' going on in our country. Any time you want votes, stir up a war on women, the environment, asparagus, you name it. Great read, though depressing.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Mr-Mediocre, thanks for the comment. I am not completely unhappy with the current political mess. The US has a strong libertarian streak that shows up more in local issues than national.


Sanxuary 3 years ago

I think that the biggest problem is that most Americans feel that they are simply parts in a machine. Purchased by the lowest bidder and replaced cheaply. We believe there needs to be a rule book that allows everyone to become more then just a part thrown away at will. The Libertarian Party sounds like a CEO ran country and it sounds nice but we know it has not worked. Do we regulate true self worth with equality or does the king of secret deals and dishonesty take advantage of us all? Basically it does not really sound any better then either of the two parties, then again could they do any worst. Everyone is to scared to take a chance on what they have no idea will happen.


MSimon 3 years ago

Sanxuary,

Systems of control inevitably break down because they reduce the adaptability of the system.

So ask yourself why people feel they have no control. Because they don't own their government. Some one else does. It is in the nature of the beast. The cure is smaller government thus limiting the amount of control that can be applied.

The rule book you propose will have to be enforced. Who will enforce it? A government owned by some one else.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. — Thomas Jefferson


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Sanxuary, what we have now is capitalism as Marx envisioned it, controlled and managed from above, for the benefit of the elite. They use a powerful government to lock out competition. As our government has grown biggr, it has pushed down the little guy. Simon hit the nail on the head.


Sanxuary 3 years ago

I was simply stating regulation verses de-regulation. From what I can tell the Libertarian movement is focused towards no control. That was my point about having a rule book. Capitalism does not work when it is improperly balanced. If you pay survival wages, no one greases the wheels of capitalism by buying more things. Consolidation and globalisation has destroyed the small businesses of America. Most were not put out of business by foreign competition but by the big boys on our own block. You got one think right, the Government does not represent its citizens. We live in a World of Capitalist by bank ownership and then we have the want to be Capitalist. This is not about the American dream but all about being that next tier. Those who have been fooled and realize that the system for ordinary people to succeed does not exist are looking for new ways to make it a reality. Every person for themselves has never worked. What does work is us against them until some form of balance is restored. We have to learn that the average person supporting the average person is the way forward.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hi Sanxuary, I have a little bit different view from you. There is a wide range of views among libertarians, and the ones you describe are the ones towards the more anarchic end. I am more towards the other end of the libertarian scale. All, or most all libertarians look for a reduced government presence in society, some want to push that further than others. One example, the huge to-big-to-fail banks we now have would all long since be dead, in a libertarian economy. They depend on the government for their survival.

Back when we had a much smaller government, there were independent banks in every small town. That had its own set of problems, as these banks could cause a local small-scale depression if one went bankrupt. Different systems, different problems. I know which I prefer.


DanShielding profile image

DanShielding 3 years ago

Sanxuary, regulation is intended to be a form of consumer protection right? So which would you prefer? Consumer protection provided by a coercive monopoly with little to no competitive incentive to protect consumers? Or consumer protection provided by multiple companies who must compete with each other to win consumer trust?


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

DanShielding, beyond that, there is still law, even if not the complicated regulations we would like to replace. Traditional tort law, where citizens sue for damages, also applies.


DanShielding profile image

DanShielding 3 years ago

I agree. I'm a big fan of law based on justice. I believe in holding real criminals accountable. Unfortunately I see the legal system today as largely a system of injustice. Forcing victims (taxpayers) to pay the living expenses of peaceful people incarcerated for victimless crimes.

Tort law and contract law are the only two types of law I support. The only types of law I'm aware of that are strictly based on justice. Tort law: don't violate the property of others. If you do, you pay consequences to the victim. Contract law: honor your agreements. If you don't, you pay consequences to the victim. Nice and simple. No victim, no crime. How does that sound to you? Am I missing something?


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Sounds too much like blood money. It's a more primitive legal system, and could result in the wealthy getting off too easy for crimes.

Not so different from what we have now really, with politically connected people either getting off easy, or not being charged at all for what are considered serious crimes when regular people do the same thing.

One example is drug 'crimes'. How often do we hear of some famous person going to 'rehab' for using drugs that get others put away for?


DanShielding profile image

DanShielding 3 years ago

I think it depends on the severity of the crime. If a wealthy criminal stole my porch swing, then paid me back double, I'd be pretty psyched. But if the wealthy criminal intentionally tortures and murders a human being, then I'd agree with you that he should not be able to pay his way out of it. Ideally the victim should be able to defend his life with lethal force, acting as a deterrent, preventing the crime from occurring. If the criminal still attempts to murder the victim, the victim should be free to defend himself with lethal force, thus ensuring that the murderous criminal does not live to murder anyone else. But if the criminal successfully commits cold-blooded murder, survives, and is proven guilty, I believe he should carry a punishment for the rest of his life. He should voluntarily be denied all products and services from others including food, water, shelter, medical treatment, court protection, etc. This would likely force him to leave town, which is a good thing. Hopefully in the future we can have an effective system of public ostracism that allows people to identify and refuse doing business with proven violent criminals. Such a fitting punishment for the worst crimes would likely prevent them from ever occurring. And if they did, innocent people would not be forced to pay the living expenses of criminals, which is a crime in itself.

If a wealthy criminal bribed the court to favor him, there would be incentive for a competing court to offer a better more just service to the people. Of course that's not possible as long as the government handles law and justice. The government is a coercive monopoly, and thus has no significant competitive incentive to provide real justice to the people. Laws of economics apply to all services. There are no magic exceptions.

I'm sure you can tell by now that I don't think anyone, including people who call themselves government, should commit aggression against others. That's the source for all this corruption. Without government, there's no central authority to corrupt. Natural competition for customers, for employees, for business, forces us to treat others well. Government is the removal of competition from the most important services. Thus it's no surprise when people are treated unfairly.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Read Thomas Friedman's 'The Machinery of Freedom'? Very good textbook of basic anarchist/libertarian development of a legal system.

I tend to agree with you. But that type of society requires a very specific culture in order to be effective. It isn't so different from what the US had in the western territories in the early days. Contract controlling behavior, and culture backing it up with common values.

I do NOT believe it would function well with the current culture in the US. We would be more likely to devolve into a warlord system similar to what is in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Sanxuary 3 years ago

I think regulation has a place. Imagine if there was no minimum wage, environmental or safety guidelines. What if you could treat a person any way you wanted to. Even with some regulation it hardly stops anyone determined to undermine the ones that do exist today. One can blame the Government as the problem but is it because of a lack of enforcement and the fact that every office in this country is sold to the highest bidder. Framing the Institutions in this country to favour the house does little for people who can no longer afford one. The business model of today is a terrible one. It does nothing to produce strong employees, develop loyalty and it does not support Capitalism. When you pay people they buy more crap and the economy moves forward. Is there really one person in a company worth more then its employees, the company its self and so cherished that they deserve tax breaks, bailed out, and every incentive to profit? I guess that is true Representation and a Government for the people.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hi again Sanxuary. Appreciate you coming around. I agree with something you just said. The business model of today is terrible. It closely resembles what Marx envisioned as the capitalist system. The already rich use the power of their government connections to press down competition from the little guy. GM and Chrysler would most likely be dead now, if we had a free market economy. We don't. It is trending towards fascism, where the big businesses/unions and government are in cahoots. There is no way to both have the government regulate business, and not get this result. It is cheaper to buy a few congressmen, than to compete in a free market. Regulations need to be simple, few, and clear in order to maximize the benefits and minimize capture of the regulators by big business. That is the opposite of what we have now.

Take a look at the history of Teddy Roosevelt. He was called the 'trust buster'. He broke up the giant industrial trusts back around 1900. Was the US government big and complex back then? No, compared to now it was tiny. But he had plenty of power to break up dangerous concentrations of private power. We do not need the regulatory state we have now.

Another point. Libertarians don't worry much about the minimum wage, because very few people other than teens and people with really low skills ever get paid the minimum. A low, or no minimum wage is a good thing, as it allows low-skill people to get a job, get experience and a work history, and eventually move up. Check out my Hub called: IQ And The Economy. Be Kind To Stupid People. The Dumb Have No High Paying Jobs.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 3 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

I would add that the minimum wage requires enforcement. And that requires paperwork. If you have 40 workers and want to go to 41 - no problem.

If it is just yourself and you want to add one - big problem.

Better to work longer hours. Or sell out. If you can.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hey Simon, we should get together again some time. How is work going on the flashlight?

I shudder to think of the paper work to hire even one person, if you are really trying to follow the law. It is really just impossible to hire a kid for the weekend to do yard work. It is basically illegal. Or, try to sell some cookies you baked. Illegal.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 3 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

Tom,

My preference is to wait for warmer weather. Above 32F. With the way this winter is going it may not be far off.

Flashlight - I have been sidetracked. I'll tell you about it when we meet.


imrahi1 profile image

imrahi1 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Hello! I am a research associate at a libertarian think tank in India. I am currently researching on consumer psychology and marketing strategies to advance the ideas of libertarianism. I really liked your post and specially the point that we need 'human faces' as heroes and enemies. I would really appreciate if you can guide me to other articles you have written on the same or any other papers/articles by others which you have come across about the same. Thank you very much in advance. email me at: imrahi1@hotmail.com


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hello imrahi1. I am sorry it took me so long to respond. For some reason HubPages marked this as spam, and did not notify me it was here. I have written several libertarian-related Hubs. Just go to my Profile Page and scroll down. Also, some are linked towards the bottom of this Hub. You can contact me any time through HubPages.


RAL2ooo 3 years ago

A lot of good answer/theories on here from some pretty smart fellas. Getting back to the original question as to why the libertarians just cannot get traction. I believe a large factor is the effective use of a very old tool, the fear of being made a fool, embarrassment.

As an example of just how powerful a force it can be, there was a doctor who died at a medical convention. He choked on a piece of meat. Here he was in a room FULL of people who would have saved him yet he left and quietly asphyxiated in the privacy of the men's room. So rather than suffer the embarrassment of getting a very public rescue among his peers he died.

Politicians use this fear to good advantage. A friend whom I had worked with for many years is a perfect example. Larry is a very intelligent man. His personal beliefs actually line up strongly with the Libertarian viewpoint. Long story short back when Ron Paul was trying to get the nod for the GOP slot in 08 he asked who I favored. I said Paul and started explain why...............he cut me off with " I can't believe you would support the NUT". Now I did not line up lockstep 100% with Paul but that doesn't make him a nut. First they ignored , and marginalized him. Then when he actually was starting to get some traction they brought out the old sword. They smeared him and those that could possibly even listen to his points as nuts.

I believe that fear of ridicule is a tool that has been used to good effect to hobble any "outside" candidates. "Foilhead, Nutjob, Idiot, Rube ...........these words are the weapons. Weak words usually with no solid information accompanying them.......yet they have great power. For some it would appear its better to die than to be thought a fool.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Certainly you have a valid point. Most people are not aggressive enough to stand up to social bullies if they feel outnumbered.


MLSimon profile image

MLSimon 3 years ago from Rockford, Illinois

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." - Marcus Aurelius

Social pressure has a very long history.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 3 years ago from North Carolina, USA

This gives me much to think about. As a "cat" I just want the government pack of dogs to stay away from me and my kittens. But you make a point about the packs of dogs being able to take down cats, who don't run in packs.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

kschimmel, thanks. For me what this means is that I have to decide which libertarian stands I have to defend, and which are not worth offending possible allies. Libertarians need allies if we are to get anything at all done. Usually it is republicans, occasionally democrats. The democrats might make better allies, if they were still a liberal party, but they are far too corrupt now to stand for much of anything as regards to human liberty. The 'pubs are bad, but I think, not as entirely corrupt. A large wing of the republican party is still the old fashioned 'leave me and mine alone' types. I can work with them.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 3 years ago from North Carolina, USA

If we were in a multi-party state like Israel, the small-government Rs and southern 2nd Amendment Ds (those few who haven't yet become Rs) could form a coalition with Ls, I think. I've made the case for pro-lifers going L, because Rs have been largely ineffective and Ls are at least not hostile toward babies/childbearing.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

It's case by case. I am not big on libertarians playing spoiler in close elections.


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 3 years ago from North Carolina, USA

Why are libertarians to blame for "spoiling" things? Republicans could choose candidates that their voters (not the party elite) like, then they would solve their problem. I left the Rs because I gave them 30 years of my voting life and they failed to defend the constitution from Ds and from themselves.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Very true. Again, for me it is a matter of choosing the battle. If particular repubs are good on most issues I consider important, I'll vote for them even if a libertarian is in the race too, with no chance of winning. If I thought the libertarian had a chance, I'd vote for him. It also matters who their opponent is. Here in Illinois where I live, I have never encountered a dem politician I could vote for, but some of the repubs are not too bad. Other places may have different conditions.


SanXuary 18 months ago

I missed your comment about ten pages back on regulations. I think the argument is one of our we civilized or uncivilized? Regulations serve to make us civilized. We can not be a civilization with out them. I would vote for Mrs. Warren in a heart beat. The real argument is what regulations do we need to protect people and to better our lives? Could you imagine if there were no regulations at all. In a lot of ways we already have that. That's why judges have no idea what to award the victims and Companies want a regulation that limits how much they have to pay them. If you have money you get to believe that you get to pick and choose.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 18 months ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Not sure which comment about regulations you mean. We certainly need law, but not all law is good.


Garry Reed profile image

Garry Reed 6 weeks ago from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

As a longtime committed libertarian (seldom identifying myself with the capital L) when I saw your article’s headline “Why Do Libertarians Fail? Because They Don't Understand Human Nature” My first thought was “Oh crap, here we go again.”

But once I started reading it so I could write an article ridiculing and refuting it I realized this: You nailed it! I found little to nothing with which to disagree.

It’s why I long ago quit supporting the LP other than as just one additional educational platform available to us. I agree with Ayn Rand and others who have pointed out that politics is merely the practical application of philosophy; it’s the philosophy that matters. If the philosophy never overcomes the deeply embedded tribalism then no amount of politicking will ever change anything.

I long ago rejected both Conservative and Liberal, Republican and Democrat, Left and Right. All philosophies fall along a sliding scale of Most Authoritarian at one end and Most libertarian at the other. I’ll continue to push the needle as far as I’m capable of toward the libertarian end of the scale simply because, for me, no other philosophical position is worth fighting for.

As you say, any pack of wild dogs can kill as many cats as they want, and to me that translates to any compromise with any amount of authoritarianism means the authoritarian pack will always win simply because they believe in coercion, intimidation and fraud while NAP libertarians believe only in defensive force, and there just ain’t enough of us cats to fight off the dog packs until we grow significantly – philosophically – more powerful.

To use another canine aphorism, politics is the tail that attempts to wag the philosophical dog. Libertarians need to concentrate on converting the dog philosophically so it can wag its political tail. If we fail then we fail, but what the hell else is really worth working for?

Please check out my HubPages, especially my latest article: http://hubpages.com/@garryreed


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 weeks ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hey Gary, sorry it took me so long to approve your comment. I must have missed the notification.

To reply, we are so far along the scale towards authoritarianism that just about any pushback against it is valid now, short of random violence!

I will take a look at your hubs.

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