Liberaltarianism kept all the good stuff from old-style libertarianism and is now an important element of liberal (US meaning) thinking.


Key quote "Compared to the left in general, the distinctive feature of liberaltarianism is scepticism about the effectiveness and beneficence of state action. The break with the Cato version of libertarianism, from which much of the Niskanen Center group has moved, is sharper, including acceptance of the need for income redistribution and action in climate change. "

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Libertarianism is an excellent critique but a terrible governing philosophy. A bit like Marxism, ironically. We need it around to Red Team our policies.

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Even when I was a Libertarian (I'm recovered), the "liberty of local bullies" argument always made sense to some part of my brain. Politics and freedom is a cascade of power levels, of many types, and hopeful tyrants come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. Hell, just look at your typical charismatic evangelical church, or your local multimillionaire coal company tyrant owner.

A reasonably-efficient hierarchy of power has always been the go-to solution in the past, and I really see no alternative to that. Except, hopefully, throwing a well-programmed AI into the mix as a stopgap to corruption. There MUST be a reasonably-powerful State at the top of the power heap, to keep the lessor tyrants in line.

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As a long-time online forums user (and thus very exposed to libertarians), my read of the whole movement and its fate is basically:

- outside of online circles "actual" libertarianism is vanishingly rare (everyone's seen this chart: https://www.storybench.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/polcompass.png - and even if the axes might be out of whack a bit, online libertarians have always still felt like that one dot in the lower right corner, walling themselves off with moats and everything and screaming STATISTS!!! at anyone else);

- what "libertarian", in an American context, basically meant for many or most in the early 2000s was that you were a Republican but also an atheist or at least heavily secular; since there's now more ideologies that are Republican but also atheist/secular (you can easily be a nationalist, an "anti-woke" type etc. without any commitment to religion), people with that mindset now identify with labels other than "libertarian".

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Haven't we already noticed that it is always the millionaires and the billionaires who support libertarianism?

Executive summary: Libertarianism is *naked* capitalism in sheep's clothes.

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The political problem with State Capacity Libertarianism is that it's exactly the opposite of what the Republican Party wants.

Instead of voting to cut tax rates, they vote to spend less on IRS enforcement because it "saves money". Instead of putting regulations through cost-benefit analysis, they want an up-or-down vote in Congress (lol) before any new regulation can take effect:


The explicit aim in both cases is to smash up state capacity so the government *can't* decide which taxes or regulations are worthwhile. How do you deal with people like that?

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Nice article, point well taken.

Can we also discuss social libertarianism? Can we get rid of government laws and regulations that control what consenting adults can do in the privacy of their own bedroom, and against government laws and regulations that give governments control over women's bodies?! Can we allow LGBTQIA+ to live the lives they want to live without government interference? But keep in place laws against discrimination?

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Just to reply to your 3 points at the top of the post.

1. The places that have the best benches/bathrooms/bins are private venues (think malls, or Disneyland). This is an argument against public property not for it. Economically speaking, to the extent there are transaction costs, the market will tend to internalize them, and is generally doing it quite well.

2. Defence is indeed a hard problem. That's why libertarians usually suggest to start with lower hanging fruit.

3. Empowering the bigger bully only works as long as he's on your side. You might wake up and discover the bigger bully doesn't like you today, or even worse is colluding with the smaller bully against you.

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The largest libertarian movement these days are the people who favor abortion rights. It's pretty easy to criticize the mouth breathing legislators from a libertarian perspective. Most people are situationally libertarian. Too bad they can't see past their own noses. Fear of others' liberty runs rampant.

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Why are you for 'plastic straws' for heaven's sake?! There are many regulations we could do without, but I would have thought lifting a ban on plastic straws would not be near the top of the list. We have lips. We don't need straws to pollute our waterways and oceans with more plastic!

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I'm confused what you're trying to say on AI regulation.

When the first nuclear scientists tried to keep fission knowledge restricted, their main purpose wasn't to "reassure legislators," right? It was to keep Nazis from getting the atom bomb.

When research biologists have called for restrictions on gain-of-function research, their main hope hasn't been to "reassure legislators," surely? It's to prevent a possible lab-leaked supervirus pandemic.

When research scientists like Hinton and Bengio signed a "risk of extinction" statement this week alongside CEOs like Altman and Hassabis, that doesn't look like a good strategy for "reassuring legislators", does it?

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't find "risk of extinction" very reassuring to hear from a CEO about his new products.

Yet I'm grimly sure you're right to warn of pro-corporate or just plain stupid aspects in the details.

Nuclear power regulation, today, is a perfect example of over-regulation making a climate-saving technology useless. The US price of insulin, today, is a horrifying example of safety regulations being hijacked into a company's profits. Given the EU cookie regulations, I'm quite ready to be disgusted with whatever the first AI regulations attempted in the United States are.

And for that reason, I'm sure Altman very much wants to be "in the room where it happens" when any AI rules are drawn up.

Still, if what you really mean is there's no actual basis for concern with AI, that safety discussion remains wholly premature, how much more expert consensus do you suggest we wait for?

If you think we don't need to listen to Hinton and Bengio and the other AI researchers, I wonder how we should think of those first nuclear scientists, trying to keep Nazis from the A-bomb.

Those scientists had never actually seen a nuclear explosion nor assembled a critical mass, yet they brazenly declared their research dangerous and world-changing.

The later nuclear regulations have been bad. But as to nuclear bombs' danger, the early scientists were absolutely right.

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A large number of self-proclaimed "libertarians" turned out to be quite illiberal & reactionary. Including, but not limited to, the Sovereign Citizen movement which made its presence felt during the COVID pandemic.

Closer to where I live, there was a bi-partisan deal a couple of years ago to relax zoning regulations to allow 3-storey homes to be built with far less red tape...


... only for one of the parties to back out of the deal. That party has long claimed to be the party of free enterprise (like the GOP), while the "big government party" (like the Dems) remains committed.


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All of your points about the costs and benefits of regulation seem right to me but would any pragmatic non-ideological citizen ever disagree with the proposition that regulations need to be calibrated to the issue at hand? ‘Over regulation’ and ‘under regulation’ have been used as political cudgels and rallying cries for as long as I can remember. Rather than a new ideology maybe what we need is a stronger ethic of pragmatism, ideological aversion and an acceptance of complexity.

How I dream of a political immune system that would immediately kick bombastic, over-simplifying pro- or anti-regulation pols to the curb with a hearty dose of eye rolls and smirks. We will have finally grown up.

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Libertarian thought is so ingrained in our political discourse that we fail to take notice of it. I'd say that libertarian thought in the Republican mainstream became ascendant with the election of Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House in 1995. As an example, I'd point to how Gingrich abolished the independent Office of Technology Assessment, which was intended to provide Congress with assessments of new and emerging technologies. Gingrich believed that it was not the role of government to pick winners-or-losers or to pro-actively shape societal outcomes as technology is adopted. Eliminating the OTA sent the signal that the United States was to have no effective industrial policy. Gingrich also dramatically reduced the size of committee professional staff. The result of both actions is to give outside influence to lobbyists and think tanks, and reduces the impartiality of government.

It is part and parcel of the war on expertise throughout the Republican Party, which has consequences in how government programs are received and accepted. When one hears "common sense" solutions from a Republican politician, it is essentially dismissing evidence-based policy actions. The effect is readily seen in the poor Republican adoption of COVID vaccines, preventative wearing of masks, and the acceptance of quack medicines like ivermectin.

I would take issue with the assertion that NEPA is a good example for deregulation. It is actually an example where better regulation is required. The NEPA statutes provide insufficient guidance as to what is sufficiency to pass environmental review. As a consequence, the environmental studies become more extensive than what really is required. And without clear regulatory guidance, legal challenges can be brought forward on any point of contention which then are adjudicated in regular courts which have no particular expertise on the topic. The unfortunate situation is that with libertarian ideology permeating the Republican Party along with hyper-partisanship that such reforms only being brought forward by Democrats. Under libertarian thought, the Republican Party has become incapable of solving difficult legislative issues.

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We've had 40 years of Libertarian policy success, and in every case the result is the opposite of what Libertarians swore would happen.

Most Americans hate being fooled.

The Libertarian ideal in which every person is their own expert in every aspect of finance, law, and medicine is falsified by the truth that Libertarian winners hire experts in all those fields, and leave the Libertarian losers to fend for themselves against the winners' hired guns.

Elon's Twitter foray demonstrates that the winners are not manifestly smarter, more careful, or better than the losers. "Meritocracy" turns out to be the Libertarian version of the Divine Right of Kings. The smartest and hardest working in Silicon Valley are not its CEOs.

The Libertarian lie has been exposed, there's nothing to mourn about its passing.

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Gary Johnson is the only "Big L" Libertarian I can think of who has achieved real national recognition, and his claim to fame was demanding legislatures remove at least one outdated regulation before he would sign a new bill into law.

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