Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Populist Libertarianism Fraud?

A new term has emerged in the blogosphere, and perhaps beyond, “populist libertarianism.”

Michael Lind in a column at Salon calls the concept a fraud. I agree, though, I disagree with Lind's view of why it is a fraud.

Lind writes:
Question: What is a libertarian populist? Answer: A libertarian in disguise.

That is my conclusion, after perusing much of the recent discussion of whether a new “libertarian populism” (or “populist libertarianism”) could prove to be a winning formula for the exhausted and discredited American right.

At first glance, creating a common ideology to unite the libertarian and populist wings of today’s right must be an appealing idea for GOP strategists. But to succeed, both parents would have to contribute to the genetic makeup of the libertarian populist baby. The leading advocates of libertarian populism, however, look very much like run-of-the-mill libertarians to me.

Ben Domenech, for example, tries to define libertarian populism by arguing that it takes “a few of its aims from the Rand Paul approach – a balanced budget amendment, flatter and simpler taxes, and more – but there is also a stronger focus on issues which cut across party lines, including reform of higher education, prison and justice systems, civil liberty protections, and an assault on D.C. cronyism from green energy to Big Banks.” But all of this is standard-issue libertarianism, including libertarian critiques of “prison and justice systems” and “civil liberty protections.” Nothing new here, folks, move along.
The problem with "libertarian populism" is not that it is libertarianism in disguise, but that the definers of the concept take diluted libertarianism and mix it with populism. They label as libertarianism something that is far from the real thing in a manner similar to the way some some packagers label a concoction a  "mixed juice" drink even though it contains very little juice. The "libertarianism"  of libertarian populism is the libertarianism of Rand Paul.

As discussed here at EPJ many times, Rand is not a principled libertarian. Real libertarians do not, as Lind would have you believe, want a balanced budget, they want a shrinking budget. For starters, say, by at least 98%. Real libertarians as Lind would have you believe, don't want flatter, simpler taxes. They see that as a scam to raise taxes. They want dramatically lower taxes. For starters, say, a reduction in taxes by 98%. Real libertarians as Lind would have you believe,  do now want education "reform". They want government out of the education business. Rand may be for all these things that Lind identifies with libertarianism, but that is not principled libertarianism.

Rand libertarianism is a diluted version of libertarianism that MSM is more than happy to use as the guidepost to march off distances between this so-called libertarianism and the mainstream---and anything more principled is to be ignored.

And populist libertarianism is diluted libertarianism diluted even more. It is a "mixed juice" drink diluted with milk created from dry powder. I don't want to have anything to do with either separately, and together they aren't good for anything other than a serious case of vomiting.


  1. "Real libertarians do not, as Lind would have you believe, want a balanced budget, they want a shrinking budget."

    Precisely. Somebody hire a plane and write that in the sky. I am so sick of hearing about balanced budgets.

  2. If the treasury can claim that the debt level has been flat for the last several months they can get around a so-called "balanced budget", even one enshrined in the Constitution.

    Instead of using Rand Paul as the libertarian half of "populist libertarian" he could be used as the whole thing.