Why libertarianism is closer to Stalinism than you think

June 15, 2015
Senator Paul attends news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington to unveil "The Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims Act"

Senator Rand Paul at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 2, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Whatever else happens, 2016 offers one of the most interesting presidential elections in decades. It already includes a libertarian from Kentucky, Senator Rand Paul, and a socialist from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. Americans, polling has shown, dislike socialism. Let Paul have any success, and they may like libertarianism even less.

For many American voters, libertarianism now has a certain freshness because it seems to cross the otherwise impregnable line between right and left. Sharply reducing the role of government in American life, libertarianism’s primary objective, appeals to conservatives because it offers an end to Obamacare, Social Security and other programs that transfer public money to the less well-off. Yet it also attracts liberal voters who ardently oppose invasions of privacy and bloated defense spending.

Paul’s appeal doesn’t stop there, however. He understands that the GOP base is getting older and whiter — which bodes badly for the party’s future. He is reaching out to minorities. By attacking his party’s attempts to restrict the vote, Paul could attract many African-American and Latino voters. He has also appealed to younger voters by calling for less restrictive drug laws, for example, and speaking at college campuses, where older Republicans have been loathe to appear. Paul is, in many ways, the Republican Barack Obama.

Ayn_Rand1

Ayn Rand in 1957. WIKIPEDIA/Commons

But do not be fooled. Libertarianism has a complicated history, and it is by and large a sordid one. Its leading 20th-century theorist was the novelist Ayn Rand, who, for all her talk of freedom, was an authoritarian at heart. She was intolerant of dissent and conspiratorial to  a fault. Libertarians elected to public office on the basis of her ideas, including former Republican Representative Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father, have adhered to such radical positions as abolishing the Federal Reserve.

Rand Paul has somehow moderated the crankier side of the movement that has shaped his career. Though isolationism is built into libertarianism, Paul has strongly defended Israel’s actions in the Middle East, which appeals to Republican neo-conservatives. At the other end of the political spectrum, he drew in both libertarians and the left with his 10-hour filibuster protesting the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance of Americans.

Politicians often change positions based on what voters and donors demand. But Paul’s efforts to appeal to different audiences represent something more than political pandering. Libertarianism is not like other sets of ideas, and Paul’s maneuvering is not quite business as usual.

For libertarianism is among the most rigid of modern ideologies. The theorists who formulated its core principles were seekers after political purity. They created an ideal world designed to work perfectly — but only if human beings acted consistently. Society, to them, was like a Swiss watch: Let every part play its designed role, and the whole thing would run on its own accord.

Libertarianism in that sense is not merely an economic doctrine or a political worldview. It proposed, as Ayn Rand realized, a secular substitute for religion, complete with its own conception of the city of God, a utopia of pure laissez-faire and the city of man, a place where envy and short-sightedness hinder creative geniuses from carrying out their visions. If there was anything its founders hated more than governmental authority, it was religious authority.

Such a religious-like ideal requires careful scrutiny to ensure that no one breaks the rules or, in religious terms, commits a sin. Individuals are free to act in their self-interest — indeed, are required to — but if they grow lazy or are swayed by emotions or altruism, society’s best achievements will come crashing down around them.

Republican presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul speaks to supporters as his son Senator Rand Paul applauds at his Iowa Caucus night rally in Ankeny, Iowa

GOP presidential candidate Representative Ron Paul speaks to supporters as his son Senator Rand Paul (L) applauds at his Iowa Caucus night rally in Ankeny, Iowa, January 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

Libertarianism, in short, resonates with an avid quest for political purity. The ideas of both conservatives and liberals are flexible enough to give way, at least on occasion. Obama, for example, regularly advocates compromise in principle, and conservatives, who do not, nonetheless fight frequently with each other. Those associated with libertarianism have no such room to maneuver; those who disagree are treated like apostates.

Yet if libertarianism is principled, it is also an impracticable set of ideas. Republicans who want to increase the defense budget can, and do, get results. Democrats who sought national health insurance finally realized their objective after decades of trying. But how, exactly, does one get government “interference” out of business when business wants it there most of the time? Is a libertarian foreign policy even imaginable, let alone workable? Truly principled libertarians believe that government should refrain from telling women what to do with their bodies, but should there be no regulation of medical procedures?

Libertarianism seems to be a philosophy designed not for governance but for opposition. It is loud and powerful when saying “no,” but often impotent and speechless when required to say “yes.”

Match the idealism of libertarianism with its impracticality, and it is no wonder that Paul’s campaign may wander from one extreme to another.

Paul, for one thing, has a major problem with his friends. Pure libertarians, like those devoted to his father, watch his every move, suspicious that he will sacrifice their zeal in favor of wider appeal. To keep them pleased, Paul must from time to time speak directly to their fears. His effort to hold up a Senate vote on extending the NSA’s authority to collect Americans’ telephone records served that need well. Taking a page from Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Paul knows the symbolic value of seeming to stand alone to stand for his people.

The effect, by early accounts, was electric; Paul was fulfilling his destiny as the successor to his dad. The trouble is that not all votes are symbolic and, for that reason, relatively easy to cast. Let there be a vote on something substantive, especially where budget deficits are involved, and Paul is likely to disappoint true believers.

U.S. Senator Paul is flanked by reporters as he arrives for a Republican Senate caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

Senator Rand Paul (C) is flanked by reporters as he arrives for a Republican Senate caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 16, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Paul has an even greater problem with his enemies. It is not that difficult to be a Republican member of Congress from a conservative district in Texas and be a faithful libertarian. Ron Paul proved that. It is harder to be a libertarian as a senator representing an entire state — even a conservative one like Kentucky. Yet Rand Paul has managed to pull that off.

But to have a chance for the presidency and remain faithful to libertarian principles is a far more difficult — if not impossible — task.

It is here where the impracticality of libertarian ideas will torment the Paul campaign. For Paul to stand with Israel is to issue a direct slap to the isolationism of his father’s passionate supporters. Nor is pandering to the neo-con hawks likely to satisfy. Strong support for Israel exists in both parties, and no matter how hard Paul expresses his solidarity with that country, he can never hope to compete with a national-security consensus that he has so often challenged.

Paul’s problems at the national level are exacerbated because however inspiring libertarian principles may be to the truly committed, they are elitist at their core. The more 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential choice, Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), sounded like Ayn Rand’s hero John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, the more unpopular they became. Contempt can get you attention, but it is unlikely to attract votes. Presented with a libertarian nominated by a major party, voters are likely to find him scary if true to his convictions and weak if he is not.

So crowded is the race for the Republican nomination that Paul might possibly get it. The fact that all the other primary candidates will most likely attack him throughout the debates, could possibly attract sympathy voters. But even if he were to somehow pull that off, he would, as a presidential nominee, have to be a traitor either to his father or to his party, the one caring only to make a point, the other desiring nothing less than winning.

Other ideologies bend but rarely break. A libertarian nominated by a major party is more likely to break than bend. The good news is that if Paul were to win the Republican nomination, libertarianism’s unfitness for the modern world would be revealed for all to see. The bad news is that the poison of its extremism would enter into the body politic, perhaps never to be fully ejected.

78 comments

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Too many errors in this story to cover them all.

Modern libertarianism comes out of the classical liberalism of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. Libertarians roots also rose out of the abolitionist movement of William Lloyd Garrison, who popularized the idea that everyone owns themselves (self-ownership), and therefore slavery is immoral. Note that most abolitionists also oppose the plantation socialism of antebellum pro-slavery and pro-socialist intellectual George Fitzhugh (1806-1881) who wrote in 1854: “Slavery is a form, and the very best form, of socialism,” and that “socialism is the new fashionable name of slavery.”

Libertarians/classical liberals have been fighting slavery and authoritarianism ever since.

Posted by LawrenceSamuels | Report as abusive

No new source is less libertarian than Reuters, so this sort of historically vapid smear is to be expected.

Posted by smartnic | Report as abusive

So now libertarianism is idealistic, dogmatic, and authoritarian. Is this opposite day?

Posted by Quatele | Report as abusive

It isn’t exactly shocking that Alan Wolfe, a previous Marxist, would rail against Libertarianism. But let’s have an actual debate over ideas, instead of posing strawman arguments and taking cheap shots. This article does a disservice to that end.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Wolfe

Posted by inteldiscourse | Report as abusive

It’s scary how false this is. Wow.

Posted by erikp343 | Report as abusive

Ayn Rand was not a libertarian, she was an objectivist. This story is riddled with falsehoods. Libertarianism is the modern day classical liberalism, a tradition that was influential in the founding if the United States.

Posted by JosephHowe | Report as abusive

Libertarianism is to sound political philosophy as Russian Roulette is to ‘fun’ games of chance. – J. M. Harrison

Posted by alethinos | Report as abusive

You should really change the title to .. This author is closer to Horse#$%@ then you may think. I’ll let the others here dismantle your fear and smear article.

Posted by activeliberty | Report as abusive

I couldn’t get very far into this opinion. Errors? Good Lord! First, Sen. Paul never describes himself as a libertarian nor did his father. Constitutionalist fits. Neither Paul is an isolationist. Indeed, Rand Paul would engage all nations without sanctions, trade wards, etc. He would describe his foreign policy views as being a non-interventionist. That means we don’t interfere in the affairs of other countries. Pretty simple and a major difference.

The title really bothers me. It is a blatant smear to equate a decent honorable man with one of the all-time psychopathic killers. Shame on Reuters for promoting this trash.

The good professor probably suggests to his students that they do thorough research such that their opinions are informed with facts. I suggest he do likewise.

Posted by H-daddy | Report as abusive

Some interesting points, but you never address the premise of your headline.

Grabby headline – disappointing content.

Posted by jmmx | Report as abusive

This article is a contradiction by itself. Libertarianism is anti liberty and authotitarian? Is anti religious religion? non coercive voluntary exchange is considered to be forcing individuals to a non voluntary exchange? Is this some kind of doublethink published by the “Ministry of Truth”? WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGHT….

Posted by OthonPaez | Report as abusive

Wow, what a stupid article. Apparently standing up for individual freedom makes you a Stalinist? WTF?

Posted by Kevin1893 | Report as abusive

This article is so bad its funny! The author clearly knows nothing about the philosophy, or its history. If you really want to understand Libertarianism, I suggest Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel. Its much more thoughtful than this political hack piece.

Posted by dennisanthony | Report as abusive

the only sad thing about libertarianism is that low life cancers like Alan Wolfe are left alone to proliferate, with Stalinism he would be a no problem in no time

Posted by yobro_yobro88 | Report as abusive

There are no errors in the story. The writer refers to the modern form of libertarianism, and this incarnation bears much closer resemblance to Rand’s fantasies than to Jefferson’s erudite compositions on political philosophy.

The libertarians commenting here prove the writer’s point that Libertarians are extremely dogmatic people. The simple quotes that they purposely take out of context are apparently sufficient definitions of reality. Clearly, a nuanced and thorough understanding of history is either beyond their ken or their capabilities. Thus, they are, in the writer’s apt comparison, more like Stalinists.

Posted by cleanthes | Report as abusive

This article is full of one ridiculous generalization after another. Libertarianism descended from the classical liberal principles of Algernon Sidney, Samuel Rutherford, John Locke, and Frederic Bastiat. Ayn Rand has certainly had a big influence on some within the libertarian circle, but she is definitely not even close to the greatest influence. Austrian economics has had perhaps the greatest influence. Particularly the writings of Murray Rothbard. All of this is not just my opinion. This is all facts. Alan Wolfe clearly does not know what he is talking about.

Posted by youngbuck | Report as abusive

What a piece of propaganda. The author tries to convince us that someone who is protecting our civil liberties, restricting government power and is trying to dismantle a government bureaucracy that Stalin would be proud of, is actually a Stalinist?? It is amazing how Leftist propagandists can turn facts on their heads and expect us to believe them. Oh, that’s more akin to Orwell’s 1984 than Stalinist Russia.

Posted by KG2015 | Report as abusive

Have to agree with Lawrence, way took many flat out errors to address. Still, I gotta admit I got a real kick out of the idea of Romney and Ryan sounding like John Halt. Bwahahahaha……okay, now I gotta go and figure out what universe I landed in.

Posted by BigGreenDumpste | Report as abusive

This guy is an idiot. And dishonest.

Posted by Yaakovweeeeeee | Report as abusive

WRONG Obama never compromised he and dems forced obamacare on a free america, Obama used the IRS to attack free americans, obama oversees the TSA for the benefit of the Harvard Yale elitist not the free citizens of USA; so gun running to Mexican drug Lords or abandoning our men in battle Obama and dems never compromise!

Posted by TacOnMyChair | Report as abusive

This propaganda piece by Alan Wolfe is the most incredible collection of nonsensical theory about the modern Libertarian movement I believe that I’ve ever encountered.

Just about everything is backward with respect to libertarianism, as well as, Rand Paul. David Nolan was a friend in Denver who founded the modern Libertarian party and movement in his living room with several Republican friends following Nixon’s price controls announcement in 1971. A “free country” imposing price controls? Really?

Libertarianism is most similar to “classical liberalism” which is very UNLIKE “modern liberalism” or Democratic Party national socialism. Suffice to say that many neoconservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats appear to be perplexed by any thoughts of “liberty” and “personal freedom” which America’s Founding Fathers introduced into law on September 17, 1789. And, these are supposed to be “sordid” and “dogmatic” concepts for a federated republic according to Mr. Wolfe? Really?

Today, exactly 800 years to the very day following the signing of the Magna Carta by King John of England on June 15, 1215, we are left with defending the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution (“no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”) and which wording is a direct descendent of Magna Carta’s guarantee of proceedings according to the “law of the land.”

In conclusion, Mr. Alan Wolfe might do well to better understand that, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

Respectfully,
Samuel Adams
Sarasota, Fl.

Posted by SameulAdams | Report as abusive

Wow – total smear.

How much was the author paid for this and by whom?

Posted by WGillingham | Report as abusive

Democrats compromised on nothing
Government healthcare or go to jail is “compromising”.
IRS targeting conservatives that’s “compromising”.
This story’s value = used toilet paper PERIOD!

Posted by TacOnMyChair | Report as abusive

Wow, the propaganda machine is really jumping the shark on this one.
LOL, ending the Federal Reserve is “radical”? Having a central bank has been a core debate since the founding of this country. Wasn’t Andrew Jackson that ran on the slogan “Jackson and no bank” to cement his opposition to a central bank?
Perhaps the next article will be “Libertarianism is closer to racism than you think”? Idiots.
These hacks need to stop disrespecting former Republican Congressman and current Republican Senators by mischaracterizing them as Libertarian. You’d fair better constantly calling Obama or Hillary Socialist or Socialist leaning. The constant attempts at shaming Ron and Rand with the “L” word is played out.
Go back to convincing the Jews they’re better off without a homeland or whatever you do, jackass.

Posted by JB75 | Report as abusive

American hatred and ignorance toward libertarianism blow me away. I am stunned that this author is a well respected thinker of our time. The claims he makes throughout the article stun me, starting with the headline. We may as well say, the sky is green. He may be speaking more of anarchists than libertarians in this article. I suppose any article that tries to bash Rand Paul is fair game to be published for the main stream media. I had greater expectations than to see Reuters publish this lowly article though.

Posted by Clif10B | Report as abusive

Comparing libertarianism to Stalinism is moronic.

Libertarianism is not objectivism, despite some libertarians being fascinated by Ayn Rand’s adolescent pseudo-philosophy.

Libertarianism has a long history, and like other -isms, has a variety of interpretations by adherents.

One of the important contributions of libertarianism is its focus upon the importance of the individual. In today’s massive societies, cultures, and governments–how many philosophies and points-of-view speak up for the individual?

Posted by MaskOfZero | Report as abusive

What did I just read? Just more garbage from Reuters. Are they really that scared of a free populous?

Posted by tomm7 | Report as abusive

The fact that libertarianism is inherently individualistic is the reason that its suddenly trendy in today’s society. Our modern, western society is completely individualistic. Every product sold to us is advertised to make us feel unique or like that product will allow us to show our individuality. Our entire society is built around around the individual, from our education system to how we spend our money, everything is about what is “right” for me or my personal choice.

Posted by pbhockey | Report as abusive

So are they just passing out idiot pills over at Reuters as if they were Tic Tacs, or did this guy just hog all of them for himself?

Posted by hmmmmmmmmmmmm | Report as abusive

Sorry wrong, there is no liberty without Civil Liberties. Stalinism was based up the concentration of authority and power upon the head of State, he and the communist party would have never tolerated or supported the likes of the ACLU and other freedom minded individuals.

Posted by tmt686 | Report as abusive

It this is a “great debate” I’d hate to see what a MEDIOCRE debate would look like.

Posted by HLM | Report as abusive

Hard to wade through all the author’s doublespeak, he must be emulating 1984!

Advocating limited government in the name of individual liberty and individual rights is… Stalinism??

Strong opposition to “religious authority” is… “a religious-like ideal”?

Posted by robt0536 | Report as abusive

The amount of butt-hurt and the thinness of Libertarian skin is apparent by many of these comments. I find that especially pathetic considering the amount of vitriol they’ve launched at others.

Grow up. If you can’t take the heat (and the truth), get out of the kitchen.

Posted by DailyTeabagger | Report as abusive

“Its leading 20th-century theorist was the novelist Ayn Rand…”

Well this doesn’t bode well for the accuracy of the rest of the article.

Posted by DudleyEscobar | Report as abusive

Wait, you do realize there’s a difference between objectivism and libertarianism right? And that Ayn Rand hated libertarians? This article is just embarrassing.

Posted by ORBOTRON | Report as abusive

Meanwhile the IRS hired 100’s of lawyers to prevent Lois Lerners emails from going public. Any ideology that reduces the power of Uncle Sam is ok in my book.
Just prepare for all of those on the government teet to squeal

Posted by dbruther | Report as abusive

What a terrible and fact free article. How many federal government grants to his academic department have caused this writer to pen this ridiculous apology for the state apparatus? He says “for libertarianism is the most rigid of modern ideologies.” This is 100% backwards and FALSE. Libertarianism is the LEAST rigid and advocates that every member of society do as they please as long as they do no harm to others. How is this “the most rigid?” And his assertion that libertarianism discourages altruism is both stupid and patently false. Libertarianism means that people are free to choose the recipients of their altruism, rather than the strong arm of the state deciding for them and for the benefit of politically-posturing bureaucrats. The author’s “Swiss watch” analogy betrays a profound level of misunderstanding of libertarian philosophy because, in fact, libertarians expect great diversity in opinions and valuations, and great diversity in independent actions and decisions. The results of which are equilibriums that produce the greatest social welfare, which Adam Smith identified as “the invisible hand” in his book “The Wealth of Nations.” The author’s notion that libertarian ideas are “elitist at their core” is simply laughable. How is returning the right to the people to make their own choices free of power mongering bureaucrats “elitist?” It’s the exact opposite. And neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan were remotely “libertarian.” Both are big government statists with phony talking points. The voters were luke warm to them precisely because they were phonies. Lastly, the notion that Mr. Paul might need to “betray his party” is very telling and a classic mainstream media tactic of late. The author is confusing the important distinction between the GOP voters across the country with the small handful of bought-and-paid-for party elites in Washington, D.C. Their few hundred votes mean nothing compared to the millions that will be cast by millions of voters. D.C. is completely out of touch with the American voters. Mr. Paul will not betray the American People, but will happily betray the filth that has accumulate in D.C.

Posted by no_corporatists | Report as abusive

AHAHAHAHA. I had to check the URL to make sure I wasn’t on the onion.
No, Mr. Wolfe, libertarianism and stalinism are polar opposites.
This article is pathetic.

Posted by Pebar | Report as abusive

No wonder, libertarianism doesn’t work in governing other people.

Posted by DionisisK | Report as abusive

“Truly principled libertarians believe that government should refrain from telling women what to do with their bodies, but should there be no regulation of medical procedures?”
Ehh, having no government regulations is something completely different then having no regulations at all. If the author doesn’t grab that idea, who’s to take him serious at all?

Posted by K.Winkelaar | Report as abusive

libertarianism is authoritarism? WTF?! I’m not a religious person, but this is so bizarre as if I say that christianism is demoniac or non-spiritual. You can accuse libertarianism of being many things, but to be authoritarian is not one of them.

The author is just appealing to the “accuse your opponent of what you are doing” technique.

Posted by DanielLou | Report as abusive

Rand’s philosophy was called Objectivism. She was not a Libertarian, but they and others have glommed on to her like mad. I think she publicly denounced them for lacking a cohesive epistemological underpinning for their political, social, and economic views — she basically thought they just ripped her off.

Posted by OCW | Report as abusive

LOL!

Posted by NunyaBizness71 | Report as abusive

Wow, this is the worst, least accurate article I have read in awhile. I would expect better from Reuters. I would expect better from Cracked and Fox News.

Posted by Andrew2358 | Report as abusive

The cherry on the icing on the cake of this spurt of propaganda comes with this statement:

“For Paul to stand with Israel is to issue a direct slap to the isolationism of his father’s passionate supporters.”

The author would be well-served to learn the difference between free trade, a hallmark of libertarianism, and isolationism, a hallmark of progressivism, to wit: opposition to the TPP.

Posted by piper2 | Report as abusive

“If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and 50 dollars in cash, I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him. Just kill him.”

-Rand Paul on surveillance, 2nd amendment, possessing more than $49, running in public. Such freedom this guy.

http://www.businessinsider.com/rand-paul -is-officially-fading-2015-5

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

I would have to say that Ayn Rand came from the Stalin era Soviet Union and does not subscribe to that way of thinking. Methinks the author Alan Wolfe is working on discrediting Rand Paul with misleading terminology.

Posted by dansail | Report as abusive

Uh, Ayn Rand hated Libertarians and Conservatives. Has this guy ever even read her? (I am not a fan, BTW).

“Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to “do something.” By “ideological” (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (E.g., the Conservative Party, which subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the “libertarian” hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.)”

What he is describing are Objectivists.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/libert arians.html

Posted by PeteThomas | Report as abusive

Libertarianism as a general predisposition is fine – support for limited government, a market economy, less regulatory intrusion upon business and individuals. But its current adherents have taken these principles to absurd levels. For they promote no restrictions on guns, no regulation of Wall Street (hence the effort to overturn Dodd-Frank), no legal redress for minorities discriminated against by a private business, no multilateral engagement with international organizations (Paul once called for the U.S. to withdraw from all its memberships), no assistance for workers displaced by trade, and a general fortress America, isolationism with respect to the world. Ideological purity is the goal. Meanwhile, the real world goes on.

Posted by Cassiopian | Report as abusive

Alan Wolfe is a yellow journalist. That’s being to generous as this drivel should not be classified as journalism. He doesn’t even have the word Stalinism in the body of the blog. You are not a writer, sir. You are a mouthpiece of bs propaganda. You probably also wrote a blog on “Why are there no Libertarian Governments,” or “Voting for the Libertarian Party is a Wasted Vote.”

Posted by FromSomewhere | Report as abusive

How exactly is a philosophy that limits government action to defense & law&order… IF THAT…in any way like the total state domination inherent in Stalinism?

This writer is very dumb.

Posted by GoNolzOhio | Report as abusive

What happened to Reuters? The mini-depression really turned the news service into a rag…

Posted by DeckHero14 | Report as abusive

The comment just before mine is spot on in listing all the things the federal government has no constitutional authority to control: “For they promote no restrictions on guns, no regulation of Wall Street (hence the effort to overturn Dodd-Frank), no legal redress for minorities discriminated against by a private business, no multilateral engagement with international organizations (Paul once called for the U.S. to withdraw from all its memberships), no assistance for workers displaced by trade, and a general fortress America, isolationism with respect to the world.” I won’t argue the misconceptions of any writer, but Mr. Wolfe is attempting a fine example of Orwellian double-speak. He accomplishes nothing and most readers will see right through his manipulative dishonesty. Rand Paul’s growing popularity is clearly beginning to terrorize collectivists and progressives from both parties.

Posted by DoctorObvious | Report as abusive

Why doesn’t the author ever mention that freedom, free choice and voluntary associations are critical to “modern libertarianism”? Because, we libertarians may be ideological purists, but so what? We’re not coercing anyone and we’re minding our own business.

Is that such a crime, Mr. Wolfe?

At the very least, Mr. Wolfe is not sincere. He loves to point out Ayn Rand (who never called herself a libertarian, but an Objectivist) – all the while ignoring all the other female libertarians (Rose Wilder, for instance).

What Mr. Wolfe calls “compromise” is simply force – government has the guns and the jails and someone from government is going to do something you don’t want to do. All in the name of compromise.

Posted by WoodChipper2 | Report as abusive

” Thus, they are, in the writer’s apt comparison, more like Stalinists.” Interesting. Did Stalin believe in personal freedom and individual liberty? If so, I would love to see that link.

Wouldn’t you prefer to live in a world with dogmatic libertarians than compromising statists? Because, I believe voluntary associations are best.

Posted by WoodChipper2 | Report as abusive

It appears that the author of this article has not done any kind of research on libertarianism; not even worth reading to the end.

Posted by Arisia | Report as abusive

Right because allowing people to live their lives as they see fit is just basically the same thing as Stalinism which jailed and murdered people for the slightest infraction against state policy of which there was no end.

Posted by lpartain | Report as abusive

Oh, wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more clueless “analysis” of libertarianism. Please tell me the author doesn’t have a vote.

Posted by BuzzyLOL | Report as abusive

What? Is this article serious? Such radical positions as “abolishing the Federal Reserve!??” That’s your big radical accusation? Socialists (Stalinists too) advocate mass killing, forced confiscation, thoughtcrime, equality of misery, and you point to… abolishing the Federal Reserve? A very practical and realistically accomplishable step to securing economic security! That isn’t radical at all. What the hell are you people smoking here at Reuters?

Posted by danclair | Report as abusive

Wow. Worst. Article. Ever. the once proud news source, Reuters, is reduced to this?

Posted by sprigunsdp | Report as abusive

Why yes, we libertarians are quite dogmatic: we’ll firmly assert the moral and ideological superiority of a system by which everyone is free to pursue and exercise their beliefs, livelihood, and pastimes so long as they don’t harm the person, property, or liberties of others through objectively discernable civil or criminal violations.

Libertarianism: the only dogma that results in everyone being free to not believe anyone else’s dogma. *brain explosion*

Posted by csuwildcat | Report as abusive

This ill-researched article ignores the actual creators of Libertarianism: www.libertarianinternational.org

Among the howlers:

>Rand Paul isn’t a libertarian and has said so.

>Rand was not a Libertarian theorist.

>Among the impractical ideas of Libertarianism: the creation of the internet. So did REUTERS attack that Libertarian idea too back in the day?

>Libertarianism is not primarily a political approach.

Please do basic research before writing an article on Libertarianism. Thanks.

Posted by KennonG | Report as abusive

The rhetorical methods used to smear, libel, and misrepresent libertarianism in this OpEd are quite Stalinist.

Posted by TheMule | Report as abusive

Always fun to watch a Marxist display his Ayn Rand Derangement Syndrome to the world.

Some people resist being sent to my Gulag! Damn them! Damn them all to Hell!

Posted by buybuydandavis | Report as abusive

Libertarianism is really quite simple.

All actions are allowed except those involving the initiatory use of force, threats of force or fraud.

Posted by ChillyDogg | Report as abusive

I thought I was reading something that belonged at The Onion. I’m still chuckling. If I worked at Comedy Central, I’d be offering you a job right now, because you’re hysterical.

Posted by coloradosnowman | Report as abusive

Clueless!

Posted by JPMcGrath | Report as abusive

I see someone couldn’t even be bothered to look up the Wikipedia article on Libertarianism before they took to their keyboard.

Many well-read and reasoned people have already jumped in to take apart the author’s numerous errors, so I’ll just ask one question: Can you name ONE political ideology that does NOT strive for purity?

Posted by tryanmax | Report as abusive

This is well rebutted here:

http://reason.com/archives/2015/06/21/an other-silly-jab-at-libertarianism

I hope that this is the state of the art in opposition to liberty–if so, we’ll win easily.

Posted by msouth | Report as abusive

Libertarians… Diligently plotting to take over the government and leave you alone.

Posted by NunyaBizness71 | Report as abusive

Libertarianism… The radical notion that other people are not your property.

Posted by NunyaBizness71 | Report as abusive

lib·er·tar·i·an
(adj.) One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state. One who believes in free will.

Posted by NunyaBizness71 | Report as abusive

So Libertarians are “authoritative” and should be feared? Their policies are too dogmatic, closed minded and rigid? Liberals fear those tactics because they use them every day. It is in their DNA. See them at work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdbSP_Ra mvs

Posted by jaguar6cy | Report as abusive

Wow, nothing in here makes any sense whatsoever. If anything, his baseless arguments are attempting to compare Libertarianism to Fascism (not Stalinism), but I guess you don’t need to know such “minor” details to be a political science professor…….whatever course this guy’s teaching at Boston College must be some far out S$!#

Posted by keyfinder1 | Report as abusive

He’s comparing Ayn Rand, a Russian author to Stalin, the man who killed her family members.

Posted by objectivist510 | Report as abusive

From a Wiki article on Alan Wolfe, “Earlier in his career, Wolfe was a member of the collective that put out the Marxist-oriented journal, Kapitalistate, whose pages featured articles by such writers as Poulantzas, Claus Offe, Ralph Miliband, and Bob Jessop.” He is a Marxist Wolf in Liberal Sheep clothing.

Posted by Lycurgus61 | Report as abusive

Dr. Wolfe has a fundamental misunderstanding of libertarian thought. As others have noted, he confuses libertarianism with objectivism. For a nice succint refutation of Wolfe’s arguments, see David Boaz’s response at www.davidboaz.com.

Posted by ItalianScallion | Report as abusive

The notion that Rand Paul is a libertarian — which he vigorously denies — is bizarre. He is an antiabortionist, an opponent of gay marriage, a global warming denier, promised local religious groups he would vigorously prosecute the war on drugs, an advocate of the racist states’ rights — let the states decide — doctrine, a warmonger who tried to disrupt negotiations with Iran, etc., etc., etc., these all being anti-libertarian positions. However, he is a Republican.

He referred to the tag “Libertarian” as the albatross that the press failed to hang around his neck.

Ayn Rand denounced the Libertarian Party as being contradictory to her quaint teachings.

George Phillies
State Chair, Massachusetts Libertarians

Posted by GeorgePhillies | Report as abusive