Libertarians don’t exist.

So says New York Magazine.

Well, obviously, they exist — just not in any remotely large enough numbers to form a constituency. It’s not just hardcore libertarians who are absent. Even vaguely libertarian-ish voters are functionally nonexistent.

The study breaks down voters into four quadrants, defined by both social and economic liberalism. But virtually everybody falls into three quadrants: socially liberal/economically liberal; socially conservative/economically conservative; and socially conservative/economically liberal. The fourth quadrant, socially liberal/economically conservative, is empty:

The libertarian movement has a lot of money and hardcore activist and intellectual support, which allows it to punch way above its weight. Libertarian organs like Reason regularly churn out polemics and studies designed to show that libertarianism is a huge new trend and the wave of the future. Sometimes, mainstream news organizations buy what they’re selling. But the truth is that the underrepresented cohort in American politics is the opposite of libertarians: people with right-wing social views who support big government on the economy.

I think what that table mostly shows is that economic conservatives don’t exist. The rarest form of economic conservative, however, are those who are also socially liberal. Libertarians might exist, but they are rare. We have been dropping our bucket down a dry well. At least I have been.

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12 Responses to Libertarians don’t exist.

  1. Jim22 says:

    I agree that libertarians are rare. I don’t agree that we have been tapping a dry well, however. When I first came here to the Revo I was told that that goal was not to become the biggest blog nor to make money. It was to provide a forum for like-minded people to visit, discuss, and, perhaps, learn. I think we have hewn to that line pretty well. We don’t always agree but we do discuss politely. There are not many places like that.

  2. R.D. Walker says:

    It is interesting that something like 30 or 40 percent of Trump voters are left of center on economic issues. I say ‘interesting’ but it isn’t surprising to me.

    Virtually no Clinton voters are economic conservatives and damned few are social conservatives.

    Plenty of Trump voters are economically liberal but virtually none are socially liberal. That means that those individuals don’t mind government spending and socialized medicine but want gay marriage illegal.

    The bottom line is the top left quadrant is about the polar opposite of the position I have long taken on the Revo. There are a socially conservative and economically liberal. There are a hell of a lot of Trump voters in that quadrant and some Clinton voters too. No wonder I am frustrated with those particular Trump voters.

    • Squib Load says:

      I think the state grew so big that the libertarian way isn’t perceived as a viable option by most people. They also watched the GOP fight against Ron Paul and gave up. Lots of these people still hate the government. However, when given the choice of being on the giving or receiving end of government dominion, they naturally choose the former.

      Also, I can’t think of a socially liberal libertarian thinker -living or dead. Whenever a libertarian wants the same thing a social liberal, it’s for completely different reasons. There are no shared principles.

      • R.D. Walker says:

        Your second point is well taken. I live my life as a pretty hard-core social conservative. Wife, kids, grandkids nearby, rural, flyover country, church council member, American Legion officer… Right down the line every bit of my life is social conservative.

        Yet when it comes to the law, I am pretty much a social liberal. I don’t oppose gay marriage, I don’t care what bathroom transexuals use, I don’t care if people want to self-apply made-up personal pronouns… that sort of thing. I pretty much think they are all a bunch of damned weirdos but, hey, ain’t none of my business.

        To your point. My tolerance for gay marriage is a damn sight distant from a leftist’s desire to embrace it and promote it.

        • Squib Load says:

          This is a big part of what went wrong in the libertarian movement. Some libertarians hoped to team with people who didn’t share their core values. At the end of the day, the left will never accept any shrinking of the state, and the right will never accept “ain’t none of my business”.

  3. fasttimes says:

    i subscribe to a theory, stated by some here i believe, that there are more “libertarians” than shown in studies like this because

    1) they don’t necessarily a line exactly with one person’s definition of libertarian (however that is defined)


    2) those types of minded people don’t respond to polls or surveys like these.

    i can tell you from personal experience i hang up of any type of call poll and i basically never voluntarily fill out surveys or polls online.

  4. DocO says:

    I dunno. I’d have to see the survey questions to make a judgement. The wording of a question is critical to getting an accurate survey response and it’s devilish hard not to project your own values into the question.

    Part of the problem with people who sell economic liberty is they try to sell it with data and values rather than stories. Socialist and communist are great at selling their point of view because all they have to do is say “Look at little Johnny, here, he now has free health care!!!!” Who could not want little Johnny to have FREE health care?

    When we try to refute this we talk about unsustainable debt and eroding freedom and other ideas that are so abstract to most people that all the commies need to do to refute your point is assure the people that the magic unicorns of inclusivity and diversity will pay for it.

    I think the better response is to tell people that every medicine that exists, every surgical procedure that saves your life was creating by a free market economy that was so efficient that it made food and shelter nearly universally affordable. The left over capital then was available for investment in medical cures that save Johnny’s life every day.

    A society can mandate that everyone have access to health care. A society can not mandate that medicine and doctors will be available to provide that care. Only a free and dynamics economy will cure Alzheimer and cancer. Only a free market economy will invent a pill to cure obesity, give you permanent erections and a full head of hair. A centrally planned economy will evenly divide the wealth that a free market economy created and then start rationing the rapidly evaporation of that wealth and all that goes with it, like cheap food and wonder drugs.

  5. R.D. Walker says:

    Libertarianism is tough. Free speech is a cornerstone of libertarianism. The first Amendment doesn’t protect your right to say, “have a nice day”. That doesn’t need protection. It isn’t under threat. Free speech protects your right to say…

    “Donald Trump is an dull child in a man’s body.”

    “Fags are disgusting.”

    “Christ is a fictional character.”

    “Islam is a pagan, moon god worshipping cult.”

    “Get back in the truck and keep killing yourself.”

    “Transsexuals are mentally ill.”

    “Melania Trump is a soft-core porn gold-digger.”

    …and any other offensive thing. That is the point. There is no prohibition of hate speech or any other but a very narrow range of speech.

    It’s hard to say…. “Yep, I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it.”

    Today that SCOTUS unanimously ruled that racist words can be trademarked because, you got it, free speech.

  6. C. L. says:

    I remember there was a post with a link to an online test to take that would plot you on the graph after adding up your answers. This looks like the same graph. I ended up in the upper right quadrant. I am comfortable with that.

    I really don’t know how to label myself anymore. It seems the definitions keep changing or they are being appropriated by people who don’t really fit the definition.

    The only thing I know for sure is that if someone told me I was a left-leaning liberal progressive, I would be deeply insulted.

  7. fasttimes says:

    ” I live my life as a pretty hard-core social conservative……Yet when it comes to the law, I am pretty much a social liberal. ”

    this is where i have move pretty strongly and i have felt this is a good thing, but im starting to be not so sure.

    being socially liberal lets ANY thing in, as long as you are not personally affected by it. the problem is, if ANY goes you will eventually be affected by it and at that point i think it will be too late. its a tough line to walk. we can all point to what the major problems with our society are and they almost all seem to stem from socially liberal living.

    the quote “the only thing for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”, seems to define the default librarian position. librarians don’t want to mess with others and don’t want to be messed with. please no im not saying librarians are responsible for evil happening, just that being ok with anything anyone wants to do is probably not a great policy.

    i have to think more about this.