Libertarians Are Exhausting: But They Might Be On To Something(s). Part One.

Candidates standing at yellow podiums that have the Libertarian logo on them. Image Description: Candidates standing at yellow podiums that have the Libertarian logo on them.

Summary: Libertarians can be exhausting. Because libertarianism has so many attractive features and strong statements about “freedom” and “liberty,” they have a lot of perceived political high ground when arguing with them. The problem with libertarianism—as it is with Marxism, capitalism and so many other philosophies—is that it’s entirely theoretical. Trying to construct an actual framework around the concepts they hold dear is like arguing over how Santa Claus fits down the chimney. That said, there’s a lot to like about some of the principles of libertarianism, and its acolytes are growing in numbers every day. So, let’s have at it. In Part One of this two-part series, we’ll unpack the origins of the philosophy, its dark beginnings and define several strains of the discipline.

If you’re a libertarian, please don’t turn away in disgust or anger. If you’re not yet sure about us but identify as libertarian and thought, “Okay, they’re talking my language now, so I’ll give ‘em a shot,” then you might reasonably be pissed. So let’s hash this out before we go much further.

Like most ideologies, there are several appealing principles behind libertarianism. And like most ideologues, libertarians exist on a spectrum. A couple, actually. This can range from casual to deep and abiding. Or even left wing to right wing. From classic to nouveau. In America, libertarianism has come to mean so many different things depending upon your personal belief system, and there are multiple strains of this rather broad notion. Predictably, by the way, the American concept of libertarianism has little basis in classical definitions, so we’ll need to unpack the differences along the way.

Ultimately, my hope is to point out the natural alliance between libertarians and progressives. That, I’m saving for Part Two though, because we have a lot of work to do prior. But I’ll say that in terms of outcomes—the things we desire from our policies and governance—I believe there is more common ground than it might appear on the surface. So, if our mission at UNFTR is to create a broad coalition of citizens that are united through a shared language and understanding of issues, then this is an important step in the process.

When we did our ISMs episode, you might recall that I deliberately excluded libertarians. Primarily, because it’s a vague ideology with little to no practical application or historical reference point. Of course, the same can be true of Marxism and, as I’ve argued before, capitalism as well. But those of you who identify as libertarian will likely recoil at this characterization, so the burden of this proclamation is on me. Hopefully, I can get us there.

Chapter One

From Jefferson and Paine to Charles and David Koch.

When we did our episode on progressivism, we talked about how difficult it is to actually create a political party in the United States. At least one that can actually influence policy and legislation. So it has to be said that the fact that the Libertarian Party is recognized in 35 states is quite an accomplishment, in and of itself. But it has only been an organized party since the early 1970s.

Today, the party officially claims 355 elected representatives nationally, and according to the Libertarian Party's website:

“As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.”

Seems lovely. Who doesn’t love liberty? Who wants to live in a world where you’re forced to sacrifice your values? There’s a lot to love about the guiding principles of libertarianism, which have a tendency at times to read more like scripture than a political platform.

There’s a reason Ron Paul was actually a serious presidential candidate and helped attract millions to a party that only started in the 1970s.

Unlike his dipshit son Rand, Ron Paul was an affable, intelligent and principled figure in national politics. It can be argued that he did as much for the libertarian cause as Bernie did for progressives, though Bernie certainly held wider appeal and made it much further than Ron Paul ever did in a presidential bid. He had run previously as a libertarian candidate in ‘88, but it was the 2008 and 2012 campaigns on the Republican line that ignited interest in Paul and drew so many into the libertarian fold. There’s also an argument that Paul helped popularize some of Bernie’s shared stances on bloated military budgets and corporate welfare.

Who can forget the moment in the 2012 primary when Rick Perry asked Ron Paul for help remembering the name of the third agency he would cut after education and commerce? This “oops” moment was a thing of beauty.

Perry would, of course, go on to head the Department of Energy, the very agency he couldn’t remember that he was going to eliminate entirely. Point of the story is that it was painfully clear that of all the Republican candidates in ‘08 and ‘12, Ron Paul was the most intelligent and educated. But he was uninspiring and a little weird, and the establishment would have none of him.

People also knew that while he danced around it during these campaigns, Paul was also in favor of privatizing things that people really love like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. These are the stances that confuse people and keep libertarianism on the fringe, though many of the core tenets of the party have found their way into the Republican Party, albeit in very mean, perverted and dangerous ways.

So what the hell is libertarianism?

Well, at its core, libertarianism promotes individual liberty. Freedom above all. Everyone should have the right to do what they please, so long as it doesn’t forcefully impact another. The individual reigns supreme in the libertarian mind. Collective thought and action is abhorrent. No rules are better than rules outside of basic commandments, like stealing or acts of non retaliatory violence. Taxation is force: a form of violence against the individual. So is anything that takes from you, like Social Security deductions or social safety net taxes, and gives to others when you didn’t give your consent. The only role of the government is to protect individual property rights and provide a common defense of the nation.

Philosophical platitudes that are nearly impossible to reconcile in real world scenarios, but are appealing nonetheless.

One of the most public champions of libertarianism is David Boaz, an executive at the Cato Institute, who has published a couple of versions of a book called The Libertarian Mind. Here he is giving an overview of the philosophy at the National Constitution Center:

“I define libertarian as the current manifestation of what was once called liberalism, or classical liberalism…Liberal ideas are about freedom, individualism, individual rights, limited government to protect those things, free markets, freedom of religion and so on.”

All sounds reasonable, right? Let’s dig deeper into some of the ways that Boaz attempts to define libertarianism as an ideology, though after reading this book, it’s clear that it’s more of a religion than a political philosophy or economic framework.

Boaz describes it by saying:

“Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others…the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used force—actions such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping and fraud.”

He cites issues with every other system of governance by claiming they suppress incentives or create totalitarian regimes with too much concentration of power. On the surface, these are defensible to a degree, which is partly what makes it so appealing. Funding for social welfare programs—the things that we rely on to support the less fortunate among us, children, the elderly, temporarily unemployed people, the infirmed, anyone in need for a moment or a lifetime—are considered involuntary “transfer payments” that are unjust and levied by force because they lack consent.

In Boaz and others’ minds, individual rights are natural rights, a familiar concept to Unf*ckers from our deep dives into Smith, Quesnay, Beccaria, Ricardo, Bentham and others. These natural rights are spontaneous and inalienable, and should be protected by the Rule of Law within limited government. Our economic system should be guided by the free markets, which are more able to produce an efficient and just economic outcome than systems influenced by central authorities.

When describing their world views in philosophical terms, libertarians like to invoke Adam Smith, David Hume, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Like others, they interpret convenient or entirely theoretical bits and pieces of the great Enlightenment thinkers and claim them for their own. But they’ve updated their thinking and distinguished themselves in recent decades with more modern influences, from Ayn Rand, Uncle Fuckbreath, Friedrich Hayek and others, and in doing so have become increasingly dogmatic.

So we’ve set the table with some of the basics that honestly don’t sound all that bad on the surface. I doubt there’s an Unf*cker out there that’s like, “Fuck liberty and freedom. I demand tyranny and will work to give away everything I have.” And again, that’s what makes the simple philosophical underpinnings of libertarianism so appealing and comfortable.

But to understand just how perverted some of their thinking has become, we need to understand the life and work of the unsung hero of the modern American libertarian party, who was relatively obscure until a historian named Nancy MacLean came across his personal papers and went down a rather remarkable rabbit hole.

Tell Me a Story: Buchanan and Koch.

In 1919, in the little town of Gum, Tennessee James Buchanan was born. Now I assume the town was called Gum cuz’ ain’t no one got ‘ny toofesses in that there part of the country. Anyhoo, James Buchanan done popped out of his mammy’s vajajay and would grow up to be a complete fucking asshole.

{99 NOTE: On the audio version of the show, Max read this in a really patronizing and stupid southern accent, so I made him stop.}

Buchanan was comparatively well off in Tennessee, though not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. A product of a hard working farming family, Buchanan excelled at academics and worked hard as a young man, eventually attending Middle Tennessee State Teachers College. After college, he went on to receive a masters in economics from University of Tennessee. In his late twenties, he enrolled in a doctoral studies program at—can you guess—the University of Chicago in 1946, where he became enamored with the teachings of none other than Frank Knight, mentor to Uncle Fucknoggin. It should be noted that Buchanan’s one redeeming feature is that he, too, thought his colleague and contemporary Milton Friedman was a fucking asshole.

Along the way, he was indoctrinated into the ways of the Mont Pelerin Society, the libertarian think tank founded by Friedrich Hayek. (And if anyone needs a refresher on Mont Pelerin or U Chicago, make sure to go back and check out our F*ck Milton Friedman episode.)

Anyway, this asshole was learning the ropes from the shittiest people in the world who were determined to undermine Keynesian theory and unleash capitalism on the world via the free markets. But Buchanan had an even darker doctrinal side of his personality. He was deeply political, and as much as he was by all accounts a brilliant man and capable economist, he was first and foremost a political animal dead set on destroying democracy. Economics was just his weapon of choice.

One of Buchanan’s ideological heroes was John Calhoun. You might also recall him from our Procedural F*ckery episode. The man responsible for creating and perfecting the filibuster in order to preserve the institution of slavery under the guise of protecting state’s rights. Libertarians are often fond of state’s rights arguments, though the real purists are just as critical of state and local governments.

Anyway, it was Calhoun’s arguments that informed Buchanan’s ideas around fighting what he considered the most tyrannical law of his day. The federal law that was so violent and overreaching that he was willing to devote his entire life to fighting it, and others like it. A law so blatantly opposed to freedom and liberty that he would go on to found the Thomas Jefferson Center for Political Economy and Social Philosophy at the University of Virginia to work “subversively” against countervailing powers like unions, government and the tyrannical majority of democratic voters. A law so terrifying that it would prompt Buchanan to lay the groundwork for an entire political party dedicated to ensuring such legislative horrors would never again be visited upon the land of the free and the home of the brave!

MANNY: Jesus Christ. What was the fucking law already?

Oh. Sorry. It was Brown versus the Board of Education. Buchanan thought the government had gone too far by demanding integration in the schools.

MANNY: You gotta be fucking kidding me.

I am not. But let’s press on, because understanding Buchanan’s story is imperative to understanding the American concept of libertarianism in today’s world.

Buchanan became obsessed with turning back the tide of social reforms during the New Deal and civil rights eras. Any public policy that awarded anything to anyone was offensive to Buchanan, who believed that his privileged place in society and others like him was to be protected at all costs.

Buchanan was propelled by others in the Mont Pelerin Society to devise ways to influence policy and shift the mindset in the nation. He had little interest in the political process. In fact, his idea was to tear it all down. As Nancy MacLean writes in her groundbreaking book on Buchanan, titled Democracy in Chains:

“What was happening, in their view, in the civil rights era—and, indeed, the New Deal era before it—was that the majority, without the consent of the elite white minority, was taking something they considered intrinsic to the promise of America—the protection of property rights. Those who had amassed the greatest amount of property often believed that they had made the largest contribution to developing the nation, which deepened their feeling of betrayal.”

Buchanan worked diligently at UVA to cultivate credibility and attract funds, and was extremely successful for a time. But, as the nation evolved and Virginia softened its stance on social issues relative to their deep southern state counterparts, Buchanan eventually found himself at odds with new leadership at UVA that wasn’t as hell bent on destroying democracy as he was. So he made the surprising decision to move across the country and was recruited by UCLA, of all places. Needless to say, it was a mismatch from the start.

But it was during his time in California that he would become close to like minded conservative figures that eventually wound up in Ronald Reagan’s intimate circles. It was also during this time that he began to develop a theory that public education should cease being free. In fact, it should be costly because, over time, it would align students with economic incentives to be part of the capitalist system. No time to think about making the world a better place if you’ve got bills to pay. It would also serve to keep riff raff out of education to preserve the elite order of society.

I told you he was an asshole.

Eventually, Buchanan fled California and headed back toward his southern roots in Virginia, only this time at Virginia Tech, where he remained for more than a decade. And it was here that he linked up with the man who would set his ideas into motion in the real world: Charles Koch.

With the financial backing of Charles Koch and his brother David, Buchanan began building his center and attracting more like minded intellectuals to his cause. At Buchanan’s behest, the work would appear erudite and academic while building a “vast network of political power that will be the Establishment.” And the key to this was to do it all quietly and secretly.

They would start by establishing think tanks to produce papers for the media and policy makers. These think tanks would create model bills to be circulated around the nation at every level of government, each one designed to chip away at sacred cows of the social state. Then they would train teachers to take jobs at community colleges to gradually take over the curriculum and introduce their ideas. They called their effort the Third Century project, and it spread like wildfire.

To Charles Koch, Buchanan was more useful than economists like Greenspan and even Milton Friedman, who he considered sellouts for trying to “make government work more efficiently when the true libertarian should be tearing it out at the root.” Charles Koch didn’t want limited government and personal liberty. He wanted no government and corporate tyranny. Using Buchanan’s books and papers as a guide, Koch made every idea a reality.

They founded the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that even conservatives feared. The Heritage Foundation. The Reason Foundation. One after the other, the Koch network funded think tanks designed to rip apart social safety nets, eliminate taxes on the wealthy, defund agencies designed to protect the air, water, food, drugs, you name it. The market could protect us better, they argued, when in reality the Koch brothers were buying the new intellectual class and forcing them to create policy rationales that would eliminate any and every obstacle to their accumulation of wealth.

Once Jane Mayer outed the Kochs, first in The New Yorker magazine in a piece that was like the shot heard around the world, and then in her incredible book Dark Money, the Koch’s secret was out. And no one gave a shit. Well, maybe they gave a shit, but their dark money influence had grown so substantially and their policies had taken over so completely by this time that they no longer cared. Coming out of the shadows with zero repercussions only served to embolden the Kochs and others to do more, and do it overtly.

By this time, they were in complete control of Buchanan’s circle of influential intellectuals and had moved them to a backwater, two-year hillbilly college that started out in a fucking strip mall. George Mason University was the new petri dish for Koch-style libertarian thinking, and it was attracting a lot of money and a lot of attention. So complete was their takeover of Buchanan’s enterprise that Buchanan himself grew frustrated at the complete lack of integrity in their fundraising efforts, mostly done by a wicked woman named Wendy Gramm, wife of Phil Gramm—one of the architects of financial deregulation that led to the complete collapse of the American economy. But that’s for another day.

Buchanan was eventually cast aside by the Kochs because his secrecy was no longer necessary. And because he was so secretive throughout his career and lived in the long shadows of Hayek and Friedman, Buchanan eventually retired and would die in obscurity, until Nancy MacLean put him right back on the fucking map.

Chapter Two

Ideological Iterations.

I felt the need to go deeper than normal on our little Buchanan story because it helps to illustrate one of the central themes of this episode:

Libertarianism, as we understand it in America, isn’t a real ideology with a practical basis for policy or economics.

The version we have been sold was just that. Sold. Bought and paid for by a handful of wealthy individuals who played a long game to destroy our democracy by painting all government as tyrannical and private enterprise as the only path to liberty and freedom, the two words most closely associated with American libertarianism.

And, as we’ll explore in more detail, there are several doctrinal versions of libertarianism that are variations on certain fundamental themes but wholly perverted by the monied elite who sought to replace one form of tyranny, one that provides a system of balance and opportunity to citizens in a functioning democracy, with another form of corporate tyranny that places power in the hands of a small minority of corporate despots.

I know I’m nowhere close to convincing someone who identifies as a libertarian in today’s world that they’re praying to a false idol, but this groundwork had to be laid. So with that, let’s briefly run through the most notable sects of libertarianism to build a framework of understanding.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s an exhausting one.

Anarcho-Capitalism: Anarcho-capitalists believe governments monopolize services that would be better left to corporations, and should be abolished entirely in favor of a system where corporations provide services we associate with the government.

Civil Libertarianism: Civil libertarians believe the government should not pass laws that restrict, oppress, or selectively fail to protect people in their day-to-day lives. Their position can best be summed up by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' statement that “A man's right to swing his fist ends where my nose begins.” In the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union represents the interests of civil libertarians. Civil libertarians may or may not also be fiscal libertarians.

Classical Liberalism: Classical liberals agree with the words of the Declaration of Independence: that all people have basic human rights, and that the sole legitimate function of government is to protect those rights. Most of the Founding Fathers and most of the European philosophers who influenced them were classical liberals. It should be noted that most of the Chicago School economists and those of the Mont Pelerin Society are most closely associated with this form of libertarianism.

Fiscal Libertarianism: Fiscal libertarians (also referred to as laissez-faire capitalists) believe in free trade, low (or nonexistent) taxes, and minimal (or nonexistent) corporate regulation. Most traditional Republicans are moderate fiscal libertarians. Again, the Chicago boys would also align with this as well, because it strictly applies to economic thinking and excludes other forms of public and foreign policy.

Geolibertarianism: Geolibertarians (also called “one-taxers”) are fiscal libertarians who believe that land can never be owned, but may be rented. They generally propose the abolition of all income and sales taxes in favor of a single land rental tax, with the revenue used to support collective interests (such as military defense) as determined through a democratic process. This is all a bit fanciful and has no practical application. But you can begin to really spot how libertarian strains differ in other parts of the world.

Libertarian Socialism: Libertarian socialists agree with anarcho-capitalists that government is a monopoly and should be abolished, but they believe that nations should be ruled instead by work-share cooperatives or labor unions instead of corporations. Our beloved Uncle Noam Chomsky is the best known American libertarian socialist, though it should be noted that he recognizes the incompatibility of this philosophy within any current economic structure in the world and wholly theoretical.

Minarchism: Like anarcho-capitalists and libertarian socialists, minarchists believe that most functions currently served by the government should be served by smaller, non-government groups. At the same time, however, they believe that a government is still needed to serve a few collective needs, such as military defense. I feel like most of the younger libertarian voices that you hear on college campuses or screaming at people on call in shows can be classified as minarchists.

Neolibertarianism: Neolibertarians are fiscal libertarians who support a strong military and believe that the U.S. government should use that military to overthrow dangerous and oppressive regimes. It is their emphasis on military intervention that distinguishes them from paleolibertarians, who we’ll get to in a second, and gives them a reason to make common cause with neoconservatives.

Objectivism: Ah, yes. These fucking douchebags. The Objectivist movement was founded by the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, who incorporated fiscal libertarianism into a broader philosophy emphasizing rugged individualism and what she called “the virtue of selfishness.” If you would like our feelings on Rand, check out our episode titled Ayn Rand was a Dick. Pretty self explanatory, I suppose.

Paleolibertarianism: Paleolibertarians differ from neo-libertarians in that they are isolationists who do not believe that the United States should become entangled in international affairs. They also tend to be suspicious of international coalitions such as the United Nations, liberal immigration policies, and other potential threats to cultural stability. The paleo comes from their practice of eating the flesh of social democrats.

So step one when engaging with a libertarian is to be sure to ask them, “what kind?” If they give you a blank stare, then you know they have no fucking idea what this means. On the other hand, if they’re able to identify one of these strains, then you better buckle up and be prepared to engage at warp speed because they’re probably locked and loaded with a whole bunch of theoretically tyrannical situations like mask wearing and smoking in restaurants, and ready to throw out highly selective Jefferson and Paine quotes completely out of context.

Chapter Three

Deconstructing “The Libertarian Mind.”

Now that we know several of the strains of libertarianism, let’s go a little deeper into the mind of the modern American libertarian. My goal for next week is to drill deeper into specific policies that have grown out of the increasingly warped sense of this ideology. So let’s lay a few more building blocks to understand just how the principle agents of libertarianism think that leaves them open to believing that the policy measures they currently espouse might seem aligned, while being wholly anachronistic and impractical when confronted by real world examples.

Baltimore based journalist and legendary cynic and satirist H.L. Mencken has long been a favorite of libertarians. Here’s Mencken in raw form from his book Notes on Democracy, published in 1926:

“The fact is that liberty, in any true sense, is a concept that lies quite beyond the reach of the inferior man’s mind. He can imagine and even esteem, in his way, certain false forms of liberty—for example, the right to choose between two political mountebanks, and to yell for the more obviously dishonest—but the reality is incomprehensible to him. And no wonder, for genuine liberty demands of its votaries a quality he lacks completely, and that is courage. The man who loves it must be willing to fight for it; blood, said Jefferson, is its natural manure…The free man is one who has won a small and precarious territory from the great mob of his inferiors.”

Long before Mencken, Thomas Paine wrote in Rights of Man that:

“Society grants him nothing. Every man is a proprietor in society, and draws on the capital as a matter of right.”

These very general ideas weren’t enough to build out a platform or a party. As MacLean writes: “He [Buchanan] understood that cultivating thinkers who could alter the public conversation was essential to the quest to transform the political economy in a lasting way.”

So as he built a network and devised policy documents to influence the discourse, Buchanan and his colleagues would pull together luminaries from the Chicago School and others such as conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. into think tanks and organizations designed to influence public policy and opinion.

They would pull together to back candidates like Barry Goldwater, an important figure in their movement because he appealed to conservatives and southern racists through the newly formed language of libertarianism. Goldwater’s was more thinly cloaked than what the movement would become once the Koch brothers got involved, but it was a proving ground that these ideas could infiltrate the public imagination.

All of the reforms during the New Deal era that seemed necessary and humane to most Americans would be painted as vile and reprehensible. Unwanted measures visited upon us by a tyrannical force. And in the world view of these intellectuals determined to revert back to a system where the monied elite carried the most influence, they were. Of course, they seem to miss the tyrannical aspect of the wealthy minority imposing their will on the majority. But that, to them at least, was the definition of freedom.

As we’ve covered before, these ideas were coming of age during a time when public sentiment was turning against the government and the business class had enough. Enough regulation. Enough taxation. Enough of the giveaways to the poor. As the Powell memo suggested rather overtly, it was time for big business to start fighting on the front foot and get out of a defensive and conciliatory posture. As figures such as Powell found themselves in positions of influence and prominence, gradually, the tide began to turn.

Let’s take a few examples from Boaz’s work to see how the shift began in earnest.

 “There is almost always work available at a wage sufficient to sustain life (though minimum-wage laws, taxes, and other government interventions may reduce the number of jobs).”

Buchanan and Koch’s libertarian think tanks started to chip away at these so-called government interventions because they impeded their ability to do whatever the fuck they wanted. But these interventions were established here and in other parts of the world when capitalist systems were failing repeatedly, culminating in the Great Depression. But this time in American history was a distant memory, and fewer Americans were connected to this era in the ‘80s and ‘90s when their work began to take hold. The underpinnings of the modern economic system and the safety nets that were instituted did a far better job protecting wages and sustaining life than ever before.

“For those who really can’t find work, there are relatives and friends available to help.”

This is one of those areas that ultimately derailed the candidacy of Ron Paul, as an example. Libertarians came to believe that if you’re sick, you can go to the family doctor or ask someone for help. If you were out of work, you could move in with a relative. It’s a parochial and communal view of the world that might have worked when there were three million people, but it completely falls apart when the same land mass is supporting 350 million people. Not to mention again that, during periods of enormous economic distress, entire communities can find themselves out of work or out of options. Some libertarians have even gone so far as to claim that dying in a free system is the ultimate expression of liberty because no one was forced to assist someone who might otherwise be saved.

“The greatest libertarian crusade in history was the effort to abolish chattel slavery.”

This is fucked on so many levels, but Boaz is taking credit for it, so I suppose we have to address it. First off, libertarians love to quote Thomas Jefferson. A slave owner. A southern politician who defended state’s rights and the institution of slavery until his dying day. And we already know that John Calhoun was the political hero of Jim Buchanan. So you can’t have these guys as figureheads of your movement and claim that libertarianism was at the core of the abolition movement.

Remember that, in principle, the founding fathers like Jefferson did believe in liberty, but this extended only to a privileged few: white male wealthy landowners. In this way, people like the Kochs are indeed aligned with Jefferson, but you can’t retroactively claim that the spirit and intent of your ideology was responsible for ending the practice of slavery.

“If people acquired their property justly, then they are entitled to it.”

Let’s start with the fact that exactly zero land or property in America was acquired justly. It was taken. But what this concept attempts to reinforce is property acquired fairly, whether it’s physical property or land, in a scenario that implies consent between parties where neither side was forcibly stripped of the property, then it’s yours and you can do whatever you please with it. This concept is the rabbit hole because, again, in practical applications it begins to fall apart. For example, you can build a ton of shit in Texas without a permit or a plan. Try doing that in Manhattan. It doesn’t fucking work because there are eight million people on a postage stamp.

The Koch brothers acquired land and exploited it for fossil resources. But their land use practices caused great harm in terms of industrial pollution, which they have always claimed as their right. This is a concept that we’re going to dig much deeper into in part two because there are traps all around in the argument, but libertarians absolutely hold some high ground in the discussion.

“Other people, mostly on the political left, would argue that the ‘right to life’ means that everyone has a fundamental right to the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, maybe even an eight-hour work day or two weeks of vacation. But if the right to life means that, then it means that one person has a right to force other people to give him things, violating their equal rights.”

This gets us to the heart of their economic arguments and illustrates why they’re so in love with the Industrial Revolution. Boaz casually brushes off this period saying, “Charles Dickens bemoaned the already waning practice of child labor that kept alive many children who in earlier eras would have died.”

Death is a part of life, so deal with it. Child labor was a problem, but the market figured it out so what’s the big fucking deal? Food isn’t a right, it’s something you have to get for yourself. Same with healthcare. Same with shelter. These are the core ideas that we really need to explore if we’re going to agree on what makes a society whole, healthy and functional.

Somehow, in a nation of 350 million people living on a planet with 8 and soon to be 10 billion people, we need to come to an understanding of what it means to be a society and how we can incorporate some of the ideas of personal freedoms and liberty while acknowledging that this system—any system, for that matter—will by definition leave members of its society behind and in need. I don’t care whether it’s Marxism, capitalism or libertarianism, none of which have ever truly existed by the way, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all economic and political science.

Fuck James Buchanan. Rand Paul isn’t half the man his father is. Plantf*ckers rule.

Here endeth Part One of the lesson.

Max is a basic, middle-aged white guy who developed his cultural tastes in the 80s (Miami Vice, NY Mets), became politically aware in the 90s (as a Republican), started actually thinking and writing in the 2000s (shifting left), became completely jaded in the 2010s (moving further left) and eventually decided to launch UNFTR in the 2020s (completely left).