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Why Are So Many Nerds Libertarians? 1565 1565

BrendanMcGrail writes "Why do so many nerds seem to lean toward the Libertarian end of the spectrum? As a leftist, I know there are many people who share my ideological views, but have very little in common with me in terms of profession and non-work interests. Is the community's political bent directly tied to our higher than average economic success?"
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Why Are So Many Nerds Libertarians?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:06AM (#20439847)
    Here in Europe they would be considered right wing nut jobs, certainly not left wing.

    As to why they are so popular among geeks? Are they? Or are they simply a very vocal minority, owing to the fact that they have prescribed to a simple ideology that gives them the illusion to have easy answers even to complex problems?
  • by User 956 (568564) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:07AM (#20439855) Homepage
    As a leftist, I know there are many people who share my ideological views ... Is the community's political bent directly tied to our higher than average economic success?

    First off, I don't agree that Libertarianism is "leftist" per-se. Secondly, I don't think income has anything to do with it. Constitutionalism/Libertarianism is simply a very logical conclusion, if one is of the opinion that the United States constitution is a very good document for the foundation of government. Given that "nerds" (as you call them) have an affinity for logic, I don't see why the two are such an unusual fit.
  • Nerds (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kenji DRE (1020807) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:11AM (#20439883)
    Because we nerds are the more knowledgeable bunch and don't like to be told what to do. We want to do things our way, and hence we tend to lean toward the libetarian view.
  • Re:source? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bscott (460706) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:16AM (#20439913)
    > Or are you just assuming this because some of your friends are libertarians?

    Agreed - I know more than my share of libertarians but none of them are techies by any stretch of the term (most of them aren't even especially sane). I've met a number of apolitical techies, but otherwise, in my limited experience, they fall into one of the two usual categories.

    Then again, it's fair to say that Microsoft can be seen as something of a political entity in the tech world, and there are those who happily live within its warm embrace and others who reject everything associated with the Beast of Redmond, with vigor and dedication. Offhand I don't find it hard to see parallels between the mindsets of the "get Microsoft off our backs" camp (well-represented amongst Slashdot readership) and the political movement that rejects bloated, intrusive, overbearing government...

    So yeah, if you're sick of Microsoft then maybe you're a techno-Lib?
  • by rpillala (583965) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:16AM (#20439921)

    It's because they haven't read A People's History of the United States. All the same kind of posturing, politicking, coordinated oppression, all that has been going on forever and ever. The Constitution, while clearly laid out and functional, was into that shit up to its neck. At least read the story of the Whiskey rebellion.

  • by realdodgeman (1113225) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:19AM (#20439947) Homepage
    Socialism does actually work. It is just the Americans who think that all socialism is communism who are wrong. In Norway we have a socialistic government, and we are currently rated as the best country in the world to live in. Also, socialistic health care has been proven many times to be the best.

    In fact, most political ideas work, if they are not put to their extremes. USA is going towards a capitalistic extreme, witch can become just as bad as the communism they hate so much.
  • by Jesrad (716567) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:28AM (#20440003) Journal
    It's not that being a nerd makes one a libertarian, or that being a libertarian magically transforms one into a nerd (though I hear it can do wonders to your, err, self-confidence).

    There is a common cause to this politicial leaning and that way of life called "the nerd way". One hint is that the overwhelming majority (75% approximately) of all the libertarians I know are categorised in the "*NT*" part of the MBTI [], meaning they are all Thinking rather than Feeling, and iNtuitive rather than Sensing. For example INTJ is the archetype of nerd.

    That makes them more inclined to think about theory and complex problems, than what their colleague thinks of their look or how a given principle will make them feel about themselves. When you apply this to politics, that means they'll be looking at society, economics, justice, right and law with a mind that is non-pragmatic but dedicated to finding the actual truth. They will often develop complete theoretical structures for explaining their choices, because they are easily swayed by a convincing, rational argument, however obscure ; and not by a popular soundbite or appeals to emotion.

    Libertarianism is one such political interpretation: it leaves little to no place to emotional reaction, does not call upon popularity, and instead builds on the strictest rational analysis (it's not a secret that Ayn Rand was obsessed with acting as rationnally as possible, to the point of obsession) and "heavy" theoretical considerations about "what actually is justice", "how economy actually works", etc.
  • Geeks and Politics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AnarchoAl (987558) <anarchoal AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk> on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:31AM (#20440031)

    I know geeks with many different politics. The one thing we have in common is that we all approach the political question from a logical, systems-analysis angle. That's why so many geeks want radical changes in society - we're interested in root causes and want our beliefs to be founded on a set of basic principles, because if those principles are logical then everything we derive from them will be logical too. A mock-scientific approach.

    A large section of American geekdom is right-libertarian. This is because (a) certain things about US culture and the US economic setup mean that right-libertarianism looks the most viable option to many people and (b) a strong sense of and desire for liberty and a knowledge of historical tyrannies encourage them to look for a libertarian option - and they come upon the axiom of free individuals forming contracts with each other freely - essentially classical liberalism.

    So, why are so many geeks right-libertarian?

    • Geeks tend to like systematic explanations with logical axioms
    • Many geeks are American
    • American culture encourages viewing freedom to trade as an essential freedom
    • Right-libertarianism is an internally-consistent, logically structured social theory

    Of course, there are plenty of geeks who are Republicans or Democrats or Greens or Communists or Anarchists in the US too. In Europe we have many social democrats ("liberals"), greens and far-left types.

    I'm a geek and a libertarian myself, but I'm a left-libertarian. An "Anarchist Socialist". I think the flaw in right-libertarianism is that contracts are rarely freely entered into. If I have $1m and you have $100, I can easily get you to enter into a $200/week contract - I can bully you in the market through greater control of resources. I think its important to differentiate between personal property and productive capital. My computer should be mine; only I use it. My workplace should be equally mine with my co-workers; we all use that productive capital. My community should be held in common with my neighbours. I see landlords and the bourgeoisie* as parasites, living off our labour.

    Of course I'm the same as the rest of the geeks, looking for a consistent system and solid axioms before deciding my political beliefs. In my case, it's a fanatical belief in democracy that has led me to my position - if we wouldn't tolerate a dictatorship, why do we tolerate not being able to elect our bosses? If electing politicians isn't democratic (and it's not), couldn't we place the base of power in mass meetings in workplaces and communities, and federate them?

    * As in Marx's class system, which is class division based on power, not wealth (except in that wealth is power)
    Proletariat: the class that has to sell its labour to survive
    Bourgeoisie: the class that purchases the labour of the proletariat, and does not have to work

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:32AM (#20440037)
    I disagree with your generalizations. Geek libertarians are the ones who fight against expanded anti-terrorism powers because they recognize humans aren't perfect and the system can be heavily abused. They also fight against privacy issues with handing your identity to a salesperson, government official, etc. Why? Because they recognize the world is NOT an ideal place and therefore the potential for abuse/misuse of personal information is an unwanted risk. They build safeguards and redundancies into visions and try to remove single-points-of-failure.

    To a geek, politics is very similar to the operation of their networks and systems. A lot of the theory behind managing a computer network (load balancing, redundancy, backups, security, etc) apply directly to their political ideas as well.

    And instead of striving for mediocrity, they tend to strive for 'idealism' (while knowing that this point doesn't exist). What is the problem with this outlook on life?
  • Re: RNC and DNC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NReitzel (77941) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @08:37AM (#20440083) Homepage
    I don't think it's germane to talk about either the RNC or DNC has having anything whatsoever to do with ideology. Both groups are about power, and ideology is just one of the tools that they use to extort votes from their adherents.

    In my not-so-humble opinion, both groups are fully corrept and the United States could benefit greatly if we gave them swords (or suicide vests) and let them kill each other off. They are the modern-day national equivalent of the Bloods and Crips, and have nothing whatever to offer actual Americans.

    In part, I tend towards Libertarianism, just because I've become so disillusioned with the corporate political process. For the past sixty years, our American system of government has become polluted by merchantilism and the oligarchy of megacorporations. Because of the way that our statutory systems permits literal interpretation of the rule sets (laws), the groups with the most lawyers have become adept at avoiding the intent of laws, and using the literal verbage of the law to commit immoral acts -- read Marx, of the few things he was right about, this corporate corruption leads the list.

    Don't misunderstand my comments - corporations are not evil, per se, but because of the management structure and the lack of moral accountability brought on by a statutory legal system, boards of directors of otherwise perfectly reasonable people can corporately make decisions that lead to companies like Altria (Phillip-Morris) and Exxon (as in Valdez). Capitalism only works for the group when it is heavily encumbered against social crimes.

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:11AM (#20440355)
    The fundamental concept of it is simple, and easily understood, but the the effects of it are complex, profound and clearly difficult to understand.

    Lets take a flock of birds as an example. The flock itself is a complex, dynamic and extremely confusing system but the rules which govern that behaviour are very simple. []

    It's a similar principle with libertarianism, the result is emergent behaviour. The difference between socialists, conservatives and libertarians is that socialists and conservatives think the best way to run things is to put the flock into a box.
  • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross&yahoo,ca> on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:14AM (#20440371)
    When I hear people like Bill Maher profess that they are libertarians I shutter. I even doubt that most slashdot readers understand the term.

    Check out and do the quiz and see what your leanings really are.

    Remember a libertarian would not harp on Microsoft, would not have guns laws restricting the use of bazookas, and would not restrict people from following creationism. Libertarian means to live and let live, and most importantly it means for people to be idiots!

    So I think I doubt that most people are libertarians....
  • by Knuckles (8964) < minus poet> on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:14AM (#20440375)
    Bringing up the US is not "out of nowhere",but implied by the story submission. Nowhere else is the term "libertarian" even known, and your run-of-the-mill US libertarian would be classified as a nut-case (sometimes right-wing, sometimes left-wing) in Europe.
  • Re:source? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ahfoo (223186) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:16AM (#20440393) Journal
    Right, and he seems to be suggesting that Libertarians are leftists. This another enormous assumption. I tend to think that libertarianism is the greatest thing that ever happened to the Republicans because it makes a lot of people who have liberal social values like not caring what drugs people take on the weekends or how others have sex feel that somehow their views are better expressed by the Republicans than the Democrats. I agree the twin parties both suck at this point and that the Democrats hardly seem like an alternative, but I know people who clearly have liberal social values and take drugs and have kinky sex lives who, due to their faith in libertarianism, actually vote Republican because they think it is closer to this libertarian ideal that they have in their minds.

            From my observations, I have an answer to the question of why there are so many Libertarians in tech. My observation may be an oversimplification, but oversimplification is the crux of the issue as I see it. From the Libertarians that I have spoken with there seems to be a common thread of wanting to break things down into fundamental principles and having faith that there really are fundamental phenomena such as market forces that can control society for the best if they are allowed to operate unfettered. To me, this is just an absurd and ignorant proposition, but it's not surprising that you see people in tech get so hung up on this because it mirrors the rules that govern technology and especially computers and most particularly computer hardware.

            When you get right down to it, there's no question that what makes machine computing possible is the simplification of the input: that is the conversion from decimal to binary. Without the concept of binary numeracy, computing is simply too complicated. If you are willing to accept the premise that you can build everything else up from a binary number system including the letters of the alphabet and even arrays representing graphics and wave forms to represent sounds and scale it all up into extremely high definition representations of the analog world then you can easily delude yourself into the thought process that everything must be based upon similar fundamental principles and that the only way to govern behavior and society is to identify and rely upon those principles.

            As seductive as this is to people, it's really closed minded and ignorant of how we got to where we are today in terms of technology and society in general. The eighteenth century French mathematicians who laid the mathematical foundations for what would become digital signal processing such as Fourier were the models upon which the concept of communists were founded. Marx was totally in awe of these intellectuals who demonstrated the intellectual courage to overturn the simplistic ideas of paternalist monarchy which is really where the libertarians are closer to in their worship of imaginary gods like the invisible hand.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:19AM (#20440421) Homepage
    And take the test at The Political Compass [] as well.
  • Re:All about freedom (Score:2, Interesting)

    by loxosceles (580563) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:23AM (#20440465)

    I think the general societal norm is quite different from the political norm in developed countries. Otherwise, I agree.

    Nerds are deviants under (say) 1950's norms because they realize those norms are untenable in the face of advancing science and technology. I think nerds tend toward radical (libertarian/anarcho-socialist/green) ideologies because they see an irreconcilable conflict between current mainstream political ideologies and technological/social progress.

    There are a lot of reasons for the political decay in most countries, ranging from cultural melting-pot instability, to the game-theoretic 2-party mess [] to the institutionalization of congress (essay of the same name, Polsby, 1968), to the lack of a frontier for radicals to inhabit, constructing their own societies free from external influence.

    Until those problems are mitigated, political norms will remain skewed from general societal norms.

  • Re:source? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sg3000 (87992) * <sg_public@[ ].com ['mac' in gap]> on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:27AM (#20440485)
    > Can you cite your source for this data? Or are you just assuming this because some of your friends are libertarians?

    Agreed. And I'm sure if anyone else disagrees with the author's assumption, we'll get to find out the question about how many moderators are libertarians.

    I think it's a combination of a number of factors:

    1. There is a relatively larger sampling of people willing to talk about being Libertarians, whereas other people aren't necessarily as vocal about their political party membership or whether or not they've adopted a term to conceptualize their political philosophy. Apparent over-representation isn't uncommon where you have a small group of vocal fanatical people.

    2. People heavily involved in technology are probably less knowledgeable (nor even interested) in public policy and politics. For those people, Libertarianism provides a certain simplicity without nuance which can be appealing. In this way, Libertarianism is like Communism: fine in theory, but not attractive in practice.

    3. People heavily involved in technology are younger with less experience: exactly the type of people who would find appeal in an economic/political movement characterized by simple messages (but with untested policy). In other words, bumper stickers that reinforce ideology are more interesting than policy analysis.

    As for point #3, here's an old example. A couple of years ago on Slashdot, there was a discussion about 911 services []. A presumed libertarian said that we ought to privatize 911 services and not provide it to everyone who can't pay (and let charity help the rest). I was getting my MBA at the time, and we had just covered heavy fixed cost models that illustrate textbook-perfect examples of situations where regulation is more economic beneficial to all parties than a voluntary purchase model. So I wrote a response []. The result was very similar to the other times I've had a discussion with a Libertarian.

    In that thread, I used a simplified example with hard numbers to show economically that the regulation case actually benefitted everyone (even if you excluded any altruism). What was interesting is that over the course of the thread, the Libertarians who responded did not do any quantitative analysis at all; they responded with simplistic slogans instead. They threw out a couple of half-baked ideas: tiered services model or vouchers for poor people (both easy to say, but with no hard details). For good measure, They sprinkled a few slogans: "There's absolutely no reason that the government needs to supply a monopoly service" and "An argument based on cost is 'bee reasoning'" and similar sentiments.
  • by N-icMa (1149777) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:36AM (#20440561)
    I can attest that libertarians (or ultra-liberals as we tend to call them where I live) are considered only a few pennies short of insane, but I can easily understand why they are prevalent in the American (USA) society.

    First of all there is a historic precedent of ridiculing the left wing. During the Cold War so much anti-socialistic propaganda was spewed out in America, that the word has clear negative association. Calling national healthcare "socialized-medicine" is a good example of how anything non-private is considered bad form.

    Secondly there is the obviously flawed democratic system in the United States and the bureaucratic problems of a large state also seen in the EU. It is hard to trust the state with any responsibility when corruption, surveillance and incompetence is rife.
    It is however important to note that large corporations face the same problems of large states, and that many anti-authoritarian geeks dismiss libertarianism for this very reason (libertarians want deregulation, but deregulation means that "evil" becomes a market-advantage for many corporations)

    The third reason I can think of is the obvious focus on individual performance, which goes a bit further in the US than in even the rest of the western world. In Denmark, where I live, the focus is more on the symbiosis of individual and society than on how the individual can deal with society. I get the feeling that geeks/nerds in the US are particularly against acknowledging the values of humanity as a group animal, and only focus on its downsides.

    Personally I can't see anything wrong with a large public sector. It can be as decentralized as the private sector, giving grants to institutions and general guidelines on what should be accomplished, but letting the actual governance be done by, in the case of a kindergarden, the parents and the pedagogues/day-care workers.
  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:52AM (#20440679)
    BULLSHIT!. I've lived in Oslo for the last 10 years or so, and let me give a bit more accurate explanation of the situation:

    a)Norway's economy is mostly based on Oil revenue, a lot of which has been mismanaged so that billions have been lost.
    b)Until recently there was a liberal right-wing coalition in charge and things worked fairly well.
    c)After the last election, where the social-democrats, borderline communist left-wingers, and greens came to power, a number of problems have arisen. To mention a few examples:

    Because the government introduced a max-price on private daycare centres in an effort to stop richer families from getting better service many private daycare centres have closed down or gone bankrupt resulting in a shortage of places all across Oslo. Economists predicted this years ago, but the government found their ideology more important than economic theory.

    The government has been taken to the European court of human rights after they banned schools independent from the government from opening unless they had religious connections. Meanwhile educational results continue to plummet.

    All over the country hospitals are heavily understaffed, resulting in Nurses and doctors being overworked and eventually being forced to register as sick as a result. 60-100 hours per week of working shifts is not uncommon. This is obviously a problem which amplifies itself.

    Unemployment is high, and many find it difficult to get a job.

    You know, Norway is in many ways VERY similar to the US. There are lots of problems, but "Norway is the best country in the world" is a truthiness which the people swallow with hook,line and sinker because the state sponsored media tells them so. Problems are the fault of "capitalists" despite the fact that even the right-wing parties in Norway want a welfare state, and while you are not a "terrorist" unless you support Israel, try saying it isn't all Israel's fault and sit back and wait until you're branded "capitalist" , "zionist", "racist" , "republican" or similar.

    My impression of how things work over here is that you put on your Nike T-shirt, go get your lunch at Burger King, and then you harp on about how Americans are fat hamburger consuming morons and how all US politic sucks while Norway is the best country in the world. Then you go out and vote for a government which finds it acceptable to prohibit alternative education systems.

    Yea, I'm no fan of the US, but Norway isn't exactly a heaven on earth either.
  • by Dan Hayes (212400) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:04AM (#20440783)
    Well, going by history, a libertarian society would almost certainly turn back into some kind of social democracy soon enough.
  • by terjeber (856226) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:12AM (#20440839)

    Socialism does actually work. It is just the Americans who think that all socialism is communism who are wrong. In Norway we have a socialistic government

    Hahahahahahaha... that gave me a good laugh. I didn't think there were people in Norway reading Slashdot that actually believes that chit. Oh well, I guess all nerds are not smart.

    Now, before we get going on this, I was born in Norway, I lived in Norway for the first 30 years of my life, and I finally ran away. Couldn't take it any more. There is no country in the world where people are more full of them selves for absolutely no reason whatsoever (not talking about the Bergen population only, or at all in fact). I now live in the US, where people are not close to that full of them selves, not even in Texas, but there are other shortcomings. Some of which Americans share with Norwegians. More below.

    Now, let's work on a myth. "Norway is the best country in the world to live in". It isn't. Never was. Not even close. The main reason Norway is awarded this title is that it has a very nice social system that encompasses everyone. This social system is financed by virtue of a lottery jackpot Norway hit in the late 1960s, oil in the North Sea. Since Norway won the lottery, more than half of the population has worked for the central or local government. Standards of living are generally high-ish in all of the country. People do not suffer. Other than that, there isn't all that much good about Norway. It is a beautiful place to visit though. If you can afford it, I'd recommend it. My family is there and my soccer team is there, but I am glad I am not. If you measure on more than social welfare, Norway doesn't come close to being "one of the really good places in the world to live" even.

    Nobody in Norway excels. The only area where excellence is allowed is in sports. The Norwegian "constitution" is a law called The Jante Law []. In the rest of Scandinavia, this is what you call sarcasm, in Norway this law is more important than the real constitution. Anyone who tries to excel outside of sports is shot down immediately and ridiculed in all kinds of ways. Serious business men are made into fools by the media, while a mentally ret@rded "princess" [] is given all kinds of support.

    Norway isn't the best country in the world to live in by any standards other than social welfare. This isn't, and will never be, the only measure of "best" in any way. It is just quantifiable, and it is therefore measured. The sad thing is that when a population that hardly travels beyond the borders of Mallorca (Spain for the uninitiated) are told they live in "the best country in the world", they actually believe it. In the western world, I think the only population that travels less outside of their own heads is the American population. In fact, Americans and Norwegians are limited in their views of the world in a way that is so similar it is scary. Sadly most Norwegians think that they are better than Americans in this regard too, they are not. A Norwegian is "well traveled" if he goes to southern Spain, Greece or Italy once every three years. This is about as "traveled" as a Texan who takes a vacation in Florida or California.

    Now, the socialism that is so important to the Norwegian population actually works. Believe it or not. It is probably a good thing for a mediocracy (as opposed to a meritocracy). It also only works because Norway, as I said, won the lottery in the late 1960s. Struck oil as we say, but literally. For years Norway didn't do anything with this oil, British and US companies extracted it, and they were taxed heavily. This taxation made it possible to build a social system that protects the mediocre and cradles it. It has been protected and nourished to the level where it is now the ultimate goal. Meidiocracy (tm). Socialism rewards mediocrity. Norway is a so

  • by ZwJGR (1014973) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:12AM (#20440847)
    Libertarianism sounds like "ignore the problem and hope it goes away" to me.

    Having lived in Norway, and now living in France, I can say that the parent post is exactly right.
    A centre-left-a-bit government, which nationalises suitable public services through government controlled public bodies and exercises sensible restrictions, is much more efficient, effective and frugal, than leaving the capitalists to throw small green pieces of paper at each other and shareholders, and eventually come up with a half-baked system designed at profiting them and them alone.
    (I'm looking at you America).
    The main problem with France is that it is too bureaucratic, but that's another story.
    Leaving "market forces" to control public systems is like throwing your money into the sea, it'll end up more spread out and it won't have accomplished much.
    Privatising British Rail is a perfect example of such a mistake, which was than acerbated by breaking it badly into discontinuous, overlapping pieces, resulting in an extreme dip in productivity and increases in financial wastage.
    Market forces are often not prepared to make necessary investments for long term gain, but are prepared to execute a multitude of very-short term profitable schemes. Hardly ideal or optimal.

    As for geeks, I would guess that over in Europe, etc. they would be inclined towards sensibly run publicly funded services (left). As in the benevolent dictatorship/free and open coding paradigm.
    As for in the USA, which is depressingly litigious, capitalist and badly run (from the top), I can understand why the more logically inclined would prefer it if their government/hopeless legal system went away and they never saw it again...
  • Re:Lennon/McCartney (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:32AM (#20441077) Journal
    Good example (though they rarely composed together after about 1964). It really boggles my mind the level of self-assured ignorance that so many "geeks" have. They think a mastery of software and/or hardware somehow gives them insight into every area of human endeavor. They share that horrible disease with engineers, who also tend to pontificate on things quite beyond their experience.
  • The truth... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by topham (32406) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @10:32AM (#20441091) Homepage
    The truth is; and this goes for a wide-spectrum of political beliefs although I think it has a bias to the left...

    Everybody thinks everybody else is just like themselves. They think that because they wouldn't choose to interfere with other peoples lives that people won't choose to interfere with theirs.

    Then you get the far-right; the people who know that people will try to screw with their lives. They know this, because thats what they do. Of course, they also believe everyone else is just like them too. They tend to get paranoid when people aren't screwing with them.

  • Re:source? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Televiper2000 (1145415) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:07AM (#20441469)
    Poppa Bush? The guy who said that you weren't really an American if you didn't believe in the Christian God? You're forgetting that libertarianism simply transfers the power to the market which is a lot more efficient at screwing the common man over. If you're a libertarian you should fundamentally be against the FDA, the FCC, net neutrality, and workers rights as they impede the free market.
  • by defile (1059) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:25AM (#20441683) Homepage Journal

    And this is the core of libertarian thought: if I'm not hurting you, leave me the hell alone. Don't tell me what to do. Don't order me to attend your schools. Don't take my money for your causes. Let me trade freely (for example, let me buy sugar from Cuba). Let me read, or view, or say, what I want.

    This is a perfectly reasonable philosophy but Libertarians apply it very narrowly. Two, three hundred years ago an individual sitting on his property minding his own business had virtually no ability to impact the people around him. He could swear at passerbys, throw rocks, or maybe even shoot at them. In some extreme cases he might live uphill from a settlement and cut down trees all day and all night until he had a huge pile of logs that he could unleash on the unsuspecting town below. Someone this hell-bent on causing destruction is rather rare and the destruction is rather limited, so the society could afford to extend so much autonomy to the individual. The risks were really low.

    The world is a lot different now. Technology has vastly amplified the power any individual can exert over their larger society. Lets assume the extreme case now: plenty of individuals have the resources to build a nuclear reactor on their property. Can society afford to butt out and ignore the risk that his reactor could explode and poison the environment for hundreds of miles in every direction? Good God, no. We restrict their autonomy in mob-like fashion (maybe unreasonably so, I like nuclear power) because the risks are so high.

    Libertarians might say society will do fine as long as everyone minds their own balance sheet.

    But in today's society the free market is essentially broken. The true costs of every transaction are not being accurately reflected.. The environmental damage caused by burning a gallon of gas is not paid by anyone that is a party to the transaction. Additionally, a future that forever will have one less gallon of gas is a cost that isn't paid at transaction time either. Right now we discount the future so highly that destroying a finite resource somehow has a non-infinite price. It is only lately that each transaction carries such hidden costs because it is only lately we have such awesome technology and so much individual power.

    In the aggregate our wealth is diminishing, and because these losses aren't appearing on any individual's balance sheet is exactly why the Libertarian argument has to be rejected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:36AM (#20441813)
    Not to mention that not a single person here is an actual libertarian, because most don't seem to truly understand what it means to be a libertarian. It's not just "socially progressive and financially conservative." It's a lot more complicated, and frankly insidious, than that.

    You say it's complicated on one hand, but imply that all libertarians are the same with the other. Political philosophy is a fuzzy territory, not a black dot on a map. I consider myself a geolibertarian -- does that make me a phony libertarian? But I'm not even a "pure" geolibertarian, since I think we'd be better off if citizenship were earned through individual effort rather than given to everyone born on one side of an imaginary line, because I believe that value should be exchanged for value. Does that mean I'm a Democrat or Republican instead of a libertarian?
  • by wakingrufus (904726) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:38AM (#20441835) Homepage
    at the local level, third parties can have an impact, so a vote there is definitely not throwing it away. however, at the presidential level, third parties are all but shut out from competing. personally, i still vote third party when both major candidates are total jackasses, like in the last election, but i will throw my vote at a major party if they nominate a halfway decent candidate. say maybe barak obama or ron paul in the upcoming election.
  • Re:source? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LGagnon (762015) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @11:49AM (#20441957)
    It's worth noting that 41% are on the left (liberals, socialists, communists, and anarchists) according to that poll. Libertarians, like in real life, are still just a small crowd without enough backing to hold significant power.
  • by jbengt (874751) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @12:21PM (#20442319)
    "Norway isn't the best country in the world to live in by any standards other than social welfare."
    well, . . ok . . .
  • by bigpat (158134) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @01:08PM (#20442883)

    Right, and all her characters, even the good guys, are unbelievable flat. There is scarcely any character development, the souls of these people have no depth, they have no hidden desires, no demons that haunt them, etc. In short,they are not at all like real people, which makes it just bad writing and a bad idea to hinge a theory of the real world on it. It's enjoyable though, like Star Trek.
    I thought the character of Hank Rearden was well developed. A lot of inner conflict, sexual tension with the protagonist, a lot of social tension with those whom were living off of his work. Really i thought the four main characters were pretty well developed, except for John Galt being somewhat engimatic and aloof.

    No, it is not a book to run the world on. It did become somewhat farcical in the end when society falls apart. But we have seen societies fall apart like that in very similar ways during real revolutions. All in all I think she did a good job of showing how political corruption can eventually cause social chaos and upheaval and the personal toll that it causes people when their dignity is taken away.

    I have just spent way too much time googling for a comic that someone once linked in a /. comment. It was possibly titled "Atlas Shrugged, the sequel", or "Atlas Shrugged, Part II", or similar. It tells the story, in approx. one page, of how the story continued after all the Atlas heroes had settled down in their mountain seclusion: after some bragging of how they finally had gotten rid of all the useless people, they discover that they actually have no clue how to do all the mundane every-day tasks these people had done for them, like actually producing metals, cooking, or cleaning up. They all end up having to work the fields, muttering about how much it sucks.
    It was hilarious, and an extremely to-the-point comment on the shortcomings of Rand's "philosophy".
    Well, I partially agree that there were short comings in her philosophy as it relates to the real world. Especially, today we live in a very differentiated society where no one person knows how to do every job. I think those of us in any work situation were we rely on others and then change jobs or companies know how startling it is when we suddenly have to do something that seemed easy when other people were doing it.

    But I think that is partially portrayed in the book when Dagny Taggart is thrown into that new society and there are no railroads to run, so the first thing she can do in order to make her way is to clean dishes and be John Galt's maid. And it wasn't as if all the 'haves' are portrayed as being superior to the 'have nots'. In fact, the real villains of the book are the ones that do not attain their wealth through being smarter and more hard working than everyone else, but through advancement through interpersonal relations and political capital. If anything it is the corrupting influence of favor without merit that is the villain of Atlas Shrugged. Actual working people are very much portrayed as the unwitting victims in the book, which is an unfavorable treatment in some cases, but it is those that expect others to take care of them and tell them what to do which are treated most harshly. But there is a lot in that book for everyone, even its critics, to find.

    Oh and having a near limitless and clean source of power certainly helps when trying to set up your own little enclave in the mountains.

  • by jsebrech (525647) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @01:42PM (#20443295)
    I understand that you may actually have good intentions now, but history shows that in every such case the good intentions became the road to Hell. I don't want your good intentions trumping my choices, my life. I want you to leave me out of them.

    People generally agree on this: government should have the intention of improving self-perceived well-being for as many people as possible as much as possible. Where this dichotomy between socialist and liberalist is created is on how government best approaches this issue.

    You basically have two models:
    A. Government tries to maximize personal freedom so people can choose a way of life that makes them happy, even if this means that bad choices or fate might cause people to become unhappy
    B. Government should put in place mechanisms to ensure that people's bad choices or luck doesn't force them into a life of unhappiness, even if that reduces the freedom of individuals to make personal choices

    Now, the funny thing is that neither model really has it right. Obviously many people become unhappy if they are not free to do what they want to do. However, it's quite obvious that if people are left to their own devices, quite a few will end up being unhappy, either because they're taken advantage of (and lack the personal ingenuity to prevent it) or simply because they have bad luck.

    The great thing about democracy (in theory) is that the acts of government would be balanced between the two viewpoints, leading to a compromise solution that's perfect for no one but acceptable for everyone. In practice, the U.S. "winner takes all" model of election prevents this optimal solution, and actually (in the media at least) falls apart into an apparent choice between type A and type B. As a consequence, people spend all their time arguing why type A or type B is "the way", because they perceive government as skewed towards the other type, while losing sight of the basic reality that what's wrong is not which type the government falls into, but how it is possible that the government ignores half the population when really it should be an aggregate of all.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @02:10PM (#20443579)
    And why in God's name should your teacher give you any respect?

    Human decency.

    Adults should respect children as equals and not lesser beings. Otherwise the child will grow either submissive, subversive, or actively seek to make people submit to them as revenge. Just because you have lived longer, more intelligence, have more money, more titles, more friends in high places, more political power, or anything anyone else doesn't have doesn't mean you get the right to not show respect to them. At the same time, being younger or poorer doesn't give you the default right to disrespect people who are older or wealthier than you.

    Given a complete stranger you should give them respect and only when they do not reciprocate (as in the child sass talks you or an adult cuts you off in traffic) is when this rule no longer applies.

    By not respecting a person by default is just wrong.

    And by respect... I mean the human decency kind in which you don't cut off in traffic, thrown trash in their yard, or flip them the bird kind of respect. If you mean the kind of "I respect so and so because they are a learned person in their profession" kind of respect, I think you and the grandparent are talking about two different things.

    Respect of each other as equal humans is not earned, it should be given by default until the other party is no longer capable of leaving the other alone. I believe that is the key part of being a libertarian. Just respecting everyone else to leave everyone else alone to their personal being and property regardless of who they are. We are all born and die the same way. Nothing makes us any better than each other in the end so you should have the decency to respect by default rather than forcing people to submit to your requirements.
  • Re:source? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 02, 2007 @07:58PM (#20446661)
    Programmers and Libertarians both deal with imaginary systems, deduced from simple primitives. It is possible that the same allure of deductive models lead some to both. It is a necessary activity for programmers, whereas it is an elective deficit for Libertarians.

    It is interesting to see Libertarianism accepted so readily as an alternative to the current semi-functional plutocracy. As if the Evil Two Parties don't already reflect the inherent corruption of amassed wealth; the very monster Libertarians wish to unchain in the name of liberty. Government is just the grease between gears of the power distribution. No matter how much anyone clings to the rhetoric of the 17th century, you cannot go backwards by renaming your monster. Those with power over others do not surrender it just because of philosophical minutiae.
  • by caseydk (203763) on Sunday September 02, 2007 @09:16PM (#20447179) Homepage Journal
    "Where Rand fails is that although she's half-right -- you can't compel genius to invent -- she's just as half-wrong, in that one of the hallmarks of genius is that not even the genius can compel himself not to invent. "

    I think she covers that pretty well... they don't stop inventing, they just stop sharing their inventions with outsiders. I think the same thing would happen if the GPL3 pushed as far as it was initially feared.
  • OT: Try that again. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) * <> on Monday September 03, 2007 @04:36PM (#20455671) Homepage Journal

    He wanted to do it on his own terms in order to save face. The americans nuking of japan was an atrocity and cannot be defended.
    The Japanese Emperor's sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of his own people simply because he was too obsessed with "saving face" to surrender was an atrocity and cannot be defended.

  • by Temporal (96070) on Monday September 03, 2007 @10:15PM (#20458841) Journal
    As a programmer, I think engineers tend to like to look at government the same way as they look at engineering projects. In engineering, we like to use simple, clean solutions that are easily understood and verified. Software that contains lots of special-cases quickly becomes fragile, bloated, and generally bad.

    Or, at least, engineers think it is bad. In practice, almost all the software we use regularly is big and bloated with lots of special-cases. But, engineers -- myself included -- still think of the simple, clean solutions as better.

    When you extend that thinking to government, Libertarianism looks very attractive. It says that just a few simple rules -- basically, capitalism, enforcing contracts, and protecting property rights -- gives you a system which magically fixes everything. Libertarians provide all sorts of logical arguments that cover individual cases, e.g. "In the absence of the FDA, private drug certification companies will emerge.". It all sounds so simple.

    Unfortunately, in the real world, it just doesn't work. Before the FDA, private drug certification companies did not provide adequate protection for consumers. That's the whole reason why the FDA was created. So why should we think that if we abolish the FDA things will work out this time? In general, most of our government institutions were created to address real problems that existed in the past. Those problems were not solved by Libertarianism at the time, and they won't magically be solved if we try it again.

    The fact is, the real world is far too complicated to be governed by any simple set of rules. As nice as Libertarianism sounds, it just will not work in practice.

    With that said, Libertarianism does have some good ideas. We should definitely be using competition to force government services to improve. But instead of just abolishing the services and letting the private sector have at it, we should set up rules on a case-by-case basis which create the right incentives, so that the private sector can compete with the government in a way that doesn't screw over the consumer. E.g., allow private drug certification companies to exist, but have the FDA audit their decisions, and apply harsh penalties if they get something wrong. This might allow efficient private companies to do most of the work while keeping government oversight intact.

    Smaller-scale solutions like these are actively pursued by smart lawmakers from both main parties all the time, because they work well. Of course, you don't hear about them much because average people don't care about these things.
  • by mlimber (1149251) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @12:29PM (#20465587)

    Libertarianism at root has two planks: minimal government involvement in the economy (allowing the market to regulate itself) and minimal government involvement in private lives (allowing people to regulate themselves). Each of these has some appeal to intelligent people (nerds) because of their own self-interest.

    The Car Talk guys once said that many driving rules are only for people who don't know what they're doing. While they were half joking, there's a kernel of truth to be found there. Perhaps we could rephrase to say that rules exist to keep dumb people from hurting themselves and others. Nerds are by definition smart, and therefore in many circumstances, behavioral restrictions intended to protect against dumb people serve to hinder nerds' freedoms.

    Many nerds want to manage their own lives because they believe they are smart enough to do it themselves and think they can do it better. They want to allow the "invisible hand" to raise up those who are independent and resourceful enough to do the same and allow those who are dumb to be pushed down, rather than having the government push down the resourceful folks (themselves included) and lift up the incompetent.

    Likewise, they want to let the forces of economics regulate the marketplace (excepting corruption, monopolizing, etc.). In theory, this will allow the best to rise to the top and the consumer to get the best prices, all thanks to competition.

    The problems with this view, in my opinion, are that it is too dispassionate toward our fellow human beings, particularly those who are not as gifted as nerds (with power and smarts comes responsibility, as Uncle Ben said), and pure capitalism seems just as dangerous. There has to be some synthesis with socialism, or the society will fail.

    For instance, take school vouchers. Everyone wants universal education (at least up to a point), and indeed a democratic republic demands that its voting citizens be educated. The libertarian idea is to let the market promote the good schools and drive bad ones out of "business." The problem is that special needs kids get overlooked in such a scheme, and the kids at the bottom end up with little chance to make their way out and only have a choice between bad and worse -- exacerbating the social problem. I'm not offering a better solution here (that wasn't the question), but just offering an example of how I think libertarian policy can neglect the weaker elements of society in harmful ways to society as a whole.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 06, 2007 @07:03PM (#20500819)

    Just because society has a responsibility to the week and poor, doesn't mean we should use government as the institution to help them.... Forced charity is not charity.

    Agreed, but while I think according to their beliefs Christians, for instance, should take an active role in helping the poor, what if they don't? Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch pastor and theologian, journalist, and Prime Minister, said to a gathering of Christian statesmen that if help comes from nowhere else, the government must take action, but he also commanded them, "Never forget that all state relief for the poor is a blot on the honor of your Savior."

    I tend to agree with him, but the problem is that it seems exceedingly difficult for a government, once committed, to extract itself from being a welfare state. Witness the problems the US is having going from the expanded New Deal government to a managed budget, which will necessarily cut entitlements. Regardless whether one thinks the New Deal was effective at achieving its goals, would the best solution have been to do nothing (or even cut taxes) and let millions die of poverty? I think not.

Machines have less problems. I'd like to be a machine. -- Andy Warhol