Libertarianism vs. Neo-Conservatism

I’ve heard a couple of people I know on the right describe their beliefs as “Libertarian”, but the policies they support seem to me to be a lot closer to Neo-Conservatism. There is a big gulf between Ron Paul and John McCain, so I decided to make a chart, so people know the difference:

· Libertarians are uber-doves. Neo-Cons are uber-hawks.
· Libertarians fear our government. Neo-Cons fear foreign governments.
· Libertarians are for isolationism. Neo-Cons are for expanding the empire.
· Libertarians believe we should not have entered the Second World War. Neo-Cons blame the Left for losing the Vietnam War.
· Libertarians are for getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Neo-Cons are for going into Iran and Georgia.
· Libertarians are obsessed with civil liberties. Neo-Cons are obsessed with demonizing Communism, despite the fact that their intellectual father, Irving Kristol, was a former Trotskyist.
· Libertarians inherited their tolerance for sexual taboos from Robert Heinlein and the hippie movement. Neo-Cons are 60s reactionaries who believe homosexuality and pornography brought down the Roman Empire.
· Libertarians are for ending the war on drugs. Neo-Cons believe the border patrol should shoot Mexican drug smugglers on sight while protecting inflated drug prices so that it can be used to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua or support Afghani poppy-growers.
· Libertarians are against sending foreign aid to Israel, along with every other country. Neo-Cons are for destroying any probable future threat to Israel.
· Libertarians are for completely opening the borders. Neo-Cons are for building a giant wall along the border and financing a mass relocation of illegal aliens.
· Libertarians believe it should be legal to burn the flag. Neo-Cons believe it’s un-American to not wear a flag pin made in China.
· Libertarians follow the Austrian school of economics based on Carl Menger’s Prinicples of Economics. Neo-Cons follow Supply Side economics based on a line graph Arthur Laffer scribbled on a napkin for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
· Libertarians believe in balancing the budget and want to go back to the gold standard, which would entail a massive gold buying program that would cause the value of the dollar to fall and the price of gold to rise, amounting to a massive transfer of wealth from the United States to those who own gold. Neo-Cons believe tax cuts increase government capital and spend more than Libertarians or Liberals on military budgets.
· Libertarians are hard-line economic Darwinists who would allow the banks to fail despite the financial consequences. Neo-Cons are corporate socialists who want to bail out all of Wall Street but allow the lax regulation that helped cause it to continue unabated.

Here’s a quick list of priorities for the four political positions:
Liberal: Save lives (capital punishment, etc.), help the poor, save money, defeat evil
Conservative: Save lives (pro-life, etc.), save money, defeat evil, help the poor
Libertarian: Save money, save lives, help the poor, defeat evil
Neo-Conservative: Defeat evil, save lives, help the poor, save money

“[Conservatism] is so influenced by business culture and by business modes of thinking that it lacks any political imagination, which has always been, I have to say, a property of the Left…. What’s the point of being the greatest, most powerful nation in the world and not having an imperial role? It’s unheard of in human history. The most powerful nation always had an imperial role…. [Previous empires were not] capitalist democracies with a strong emphasis on economic growth and economic prosperity…. It’s too bad, I think it would be natural for the United States… to play a far more dominant role in world affairs. Not what we’re doing now but to command and to give orders as to what is to be done. People need that. There are many parts of the world—Africa in particular—where an authority willing to use troops can make a very good difference, a healthy difference…. [But with public discussion dominated by accountants] there’s the Republican Party tying itself into knots. Over what? Prescriptions for elderly people? Who gives a damn? I think it’s disgusting that… presidential politics of the most important country in the world should revolve around prescriptions for elderly people. Future historians will find this very hard to believe. It’s not Athens. It’s not Rome. It’s not anything.” -Irving Kristol, Father of Neo-Conservatism and William Kristol

“The hard part of the supply-side tax cut is dropping the top rate from 70 to 50 percent—the rest of it is a secondary matter. The original argument was that the top bracket was too high, and that’s having the most devastating effect on the economy. Then, the general argument was that, in order to make this palatable as a political matter, you had to bring down all the brackets. But, I mean, Kemp-Roth was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate.” -David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director

“None of us really understands what’s going on with all these numbers…” -David Stockman

“Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront? The hogs were really feeding. The greed level, the level of opportunism, just got out of control. [The Administration’s] basic strategy was to match or exceed the Democrats, and we did.” -David Stockman

“Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.” -John Kenneth Galbraith, economist

“The extreme promises of supply-side economics did not materialize. President Reagan argued that because of the effect depicted in the Laffer curve, the government could maintain expenditures, cut tax rates, and balance the budget. This was not the case. Government revenues fell sharply from levels that would have been realized without the tax cuts.” – Karl Case & Ray Fair, Principles of Economics (2007), p. 695

“You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.” -Dick Cheney

“It is also a fact that our tax cuts have fueled robust economic growth and record revenues.” -George W. Bush

“You are smart people. You know that the tax cuts have not fueled record revenues. You know what it takes to establish causality. You know that the first order effect of cutting taxes is to lower tax revenues. We all agree that the ultimate reduction in tax revenues can be less than this first order effect, because lower tax rates encourage greater economic activity and thus expand the tax base. No thoughtful person believes that this possible offset more than compensated for the first effect for these tax cuts. Not a single one.” -Andrew Samwick, Chief Economist on Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2003-2004

Recent Interview With McCain on 60 Minutes:

Pelley: “In 1999 you were one of the senators who helped pass deregulation of Wall Street. Do you regret that now?”

McCain: “No, I think the deregulation was probably helpful to the growth of our economy.”

25 thoughts on “Libertarianism vs. Neo-Conservatism

  1. Well, yes, generally right. But some minor corrections on a couple of points:

    · Libertarians are against sending foreign aid to Israel. Neo-Cons are for destroying any probable future threat to Israel.

    Libertarians are against foreign aid, period. Libertarians are not antisemities and are not even anti-Israel, except for those who are. Generally, the increasing prevalence of antisemites isn’t doing the movement much good, particularly since 95% of its modern founders were Jews.


    Libertarians follow the Austrian school of economics based on Carl Menger’s Prinicples of Economics. Neo-Cons follow the trickle-down economics based on a line graph Arthur Laffer scribbled on a napkin for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
    Well, ah, no. Libertarians are for “free market economics” of any variety [not just the peculiarites of Austrianism]. Neo-cons are for fascist economics of any variety.

    Cheers, and try to read a bit more broadly when developing your understanding of libertarianism.

  2. As for the first, yes, I know there are Libertarians who make an exception for Israel. But since Libertarianism is supposed to be the “Party of Principal”, I’m making the assumption that treating Israel like every other country is the “Orthodox” Libertarian position. Not surprisingly, there also aren’t many Libertarians complaining about the Second World War these days. And of course, I wasn’t trying to make Libertarians out to be anti-Semitic but to contrast the huge difference between the principles of Libertarianism and Neo-Conservatism. I wasn’t aware of a growing prevalence of anti-Semites in the Libertarian party, but I’m not surprised since many racist Dixiecrats like David Duke have been moving to the political right and looking for an alternative to the pro-Israel stance of the Republicans. Just like with Neo-Conservatism, “Libertarianism” is too often being used as a catch-all phrase for any right-wing third-party position, which is in itself paradoxical since the majority of real Libertarians vote Republican, leaving the official party with a paltry 1% of the vote.

    As to the second, if you look Libertarianism up on Wikipedia, it describes how Europeans from the Austrian school like Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek were a huge influence for Libertarianism. A speaker for Ron Paul also brought the Austrian school up at a recent rally and the entire crowd went ballistic. The speaker was shocked and said, “You know you have a smart crowd when you just mention the Austrian school and you guys know what I’m talking about.” I realize that doesn’t mean all Libertarians adhere to the Austrian school, but again, I was using the heavily-studied background of the Austrian school and The Principles of Economics to compare it to the scribbled napkin of Arthur Laffer (inspiration for Larry Laffer) for comedic effect.

  3. As to the first point, no one mentioned an “exception for Israel.” I agree that Israel should not receive foreign aid, nor should Egypt or Syria or any other country that currently does receive foreign aid. What I was saying is simply that Israel should not become a particularity, singled out as THE evil case, is it is, for instance, for Justin Ramonondo, Carole Moore, James Bovard, and Stephen Richman. While I’m sure that you’re not an antisemite, there are some prominent libertarians [see immediately foregoing list] who are antisemities. Don’t get sucked into their psychosis.

    As to the second point, believe me, you’re wrong. I use to teach history of economic thought at the college level. There were numerous “free market” economists before the “Austrian School” ever existed and there still are today. I would suggest that you look at something like or or get some intial exposure to the real world of Economics.

    Libertarianism is not a cult, but certain persons, particularly certain “Austrian” economists teaching at minor colleges, have tried their best to turn it into a cult for reasons of product differentiation. [A marketing technique where the seller tries to create a difference where there is none.] Again, don’t get sucked into the con.

  4. Maybe I haven’t made myself clear. This is not a thoroughly researched litmus test for Libertarians and Neo-Cons. It’s meant as a series of jokes, one in which I a) make a slight jab at Libertarianism and b) use it’s far-left social and foreign policy platforms to mark the wide contrast between it and Neo-Conservatism in order to attack the latter. And to be honest, if I was going to be corrected by a Libertarian, I didn’t expect those two points to be the major offending articles.

    Now, in your first comment, you said: “Libertarians are not antisemities and are not even anti-Israel, except for those who are.” No one said anything about Libertarians being Anti-Semites. So I responded by pointing out that I realize most Libertarians are not anti-Semitic and that there are also Libertarians who make exceptions to their official policy for Israel to supplement that argument. I don’t plan to be “sucked into their psychosis” since I’m not a Libertarian myself. I just wrote this as a post against Neo-Cons who call themselves Libertarians.

    And again, I’m sure there are numerous economic schools from which Libertarians draw from. The problem is, when you are using a format in which you can only devote one sentence to the Libertarian view, one tends to be generic. Since Ron Paul is the only Libertarian candidate that has become popular enough to be worth talking about, I’m using his platform as the premier example (and I added his name at the top of my post to make this clarification). I’m sure you’d like to add qualifications to my identification of Ron Paul as a Libertarian since he’s not the official Libertarian nominee, but if you guys really want me to take the Libertarian Party seriously, then you need to get your friends to toss out that Republican puppet Bob Barr and start voting for your own party instead of the Republicans.

    Lastly, I never suggested that Libertarianism was a cult and I have no idea what you’re talking about when you say Austrian economists are trying to turn the party into a cult based on product differentiation. Is that a swipe at Ron Paul? If so, all I have to say is he got more votes than your party ever did.

  5. I suggest you go back and reread your original post and the exchange thereafter. Quite frankly, your last “clarification” is simply incoherent, and since that was not true previously I can only assume that you’ve “lost the thread”. Let me try to help once again by summarizing my points on your original post:

    (1) Most libertarians qua libertarians are neither pro-Israel or anti-Israel, albeit most libertarians are anti-foreign aid, regardless of the recipient nation. There are, however, some well known libertarians [at least “well known” within libertarian circles] who are antisemites and, as a consequence, rabidly anti-Israel. Some neoconservatives are pro-Israel and pro-foreign aid as “a public policy tool.” That is not surprising since neoconservatism largely originated from the Commentary Magazine set, and since conservatism in general is just a jumble of “positions” with little internal coherence.

    (2) You are right that many libertarians identify with Austrian Economics. But that is due to some ridiculous myth that only Austrian Economics [which is basically just a methodological emphasis in Economics] is somehow the one and only “free market Economics.” As the links I gave you show, that is simply untrue. Now if what you meant to say was that neoconservatives really aren’t that enthused about any sort of free market economics, then that, of course is true. They have been very explicit about that fact since Irving Kristols Two Cheers For Capitalism, which is now about 40 years old.

    I hope that helps.

  6. Since you’re the one who finds my explanations incoherent, perhaps you should be the one going back to reread what I said. Here are my replies to your latest comment:

    1) I know. You’ve said this three times, so I’ll give you the same answer I gave the last two times only with different words. I KNOW THAT, IN GENERAL, LIBERTARIANS ARE NEITHER PRO-ISRAEL NOR ANTI-ISRAEL. If you go back and look at my original post, you will see I have clarified that point so that no one accidentally gets the impression that Libertarians want to give foreign aid to everyone EXCEPT Israel (but anyone stupid enough to believe that is probably not reading my post).

    2) I never said Austrian Economics is the one and only “free market Economics” school. But if I tried to add “Chicago School” and all the other free market economic schools to my list, it would no longer be a sentence but a paragraph. I chose the Austrian School because that’s the school Ron Paul was touting and he is/was the only “Libertarian” candidate worth talking about in 2008. I would go back and clarify my original post on this, but then the point would cease to be funny, since the whole reason I brought it up was to compare a solid free market economic school to the Arthur Laffer’s “jot on a napkin.”


    Since I am getting bored of this argument, I will open up another line of debate in case you wish to continue this conversation:

    You are obviously for free market economics. How do you think free economics effected the Great Depression? Do you think that it was all caused by government reactions to the bank failures rather than the bank failures themselves? And how do you see Libertarian philosophy in light of this new economic crisis? If we went by the “free market,” wouldn’t that mean letting all the banks and lending companies fail? Don’t you think that will cause a global recession?

  7. (1) I don’t think that “free market economics” played any role in the Great Depression. [You know, there are book length treatments of these things even from (gasp) several different libertarian points of view.] In summary of the view I endorse: The Great Depression, in the U.S. at least, was “caused” by a standard economic downturn being exacerbated by a following FED CONTRACTIONARY policy, by the enactment of outrageously high tariffs and by the attempts of the federal government to fix prices. [The FED was created as the effective central bank of the U.S. system about 20 years prior to the Great Depression with the explicit rationale of maintaining liquidity in the U.S. banking system. It did just the opposite of what it was advertised as doing.]

    (2) You second question contains an implicit assumption that I would like to address initially. There is no “free banking system” or “laissez faire banking” in the U.S. Hasn’t been since Andrew Jackson. The commentaries we are hearing are trying to equate the repeal of a rule strictly separating investment banking from commercial banking with free banking. That is simply hilarious. It is very much like the argument if the ADA allowed ordinary dentists to also do orthodony that the dental market would be “laissez faire.” Again, there are several [actually many] book length treatises on this topic, so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel. I suggest you start by Goggling “Lawrence White”.

    (3) Lets talk about the recent fraud called the “Bailout Plan.” What will this do exactly? Well, here’s what its going to do: (a) Little or nothing about the “banking crisis”. Most of the MAJOR banks that are going to fail have already failed. There is now some consolidation and there is going to be a ripple of continued spotty failures through the more minor banks and lending companies, but things were already starting to stabilize with respect to those factors. (b) It is going to cause a MAJOR inflation. Where do you think that the approximate $1.2 trillion dollars in pre-existing bailouts now augmented by this $800 billion [some accounts say the final bill is 800, some say 850] will come come from. There are three possibilities ((1)) massive increases in taxation so that the added expenditure can be financed through a series of budget surpluses ((2)) borrowing from overseas [if you borrow from the domestic economy you have taken the money out of one pocket and put it in the other] or (3) effectively “printing” the $1.2 trillion. Personally, I think that ((1)) is politically infeasible, requests for ((2)) would result in uproarious laughter and ((3)) is what is going to happen. Store up on cat food.

    G_d knows what this inflation is going to cause. In Germany it led directly to men in black and silver uniforms taking over the country. [But, that’s right, we already had that with the administration just concluding its triumphant march into the sunset.]

  8. I think there were a lot of causes of the Great Depression. One was a severe drought in 1930. I also agree that the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was a huge catalyst as well. But I think the root of the problem was that the gap between the rich and the poor had risen to such an unhealthy degree that it was simply no longer profitable for the high class to invest in the middle class. If I had to find some simple analogies, I would say these boom and bust cycles are like the game of Poker or Monopoly: the person who has more access to money early on gets the advantage, and then the game ends when someone hordes all the cash and everyone else goes into debt.

    As for laissez faire philosophy, I think it’s too late to go back to an 18th century economy. I think that only works with the gold standard, and no government in the world uses the gold standard anymore. Britain’s decision to go back to the gold standard, and America’s attempt to help them was also one of the causes of the Great Depression. The desire to return to a laissez faire system strikes me as somewhat akin to those who still long for “true” Communism; like they’re chasing a lost golden age that’s no longer relevant to the real world.

    As for the bailout, I think something had to be done, but I really don’t know if this was it. When Sweden’s banks failed, they nationalized them and that worked out pretty good in the end. I’ve heard contradictory things about whether the money is being used to buy the good loans or the bad loans. When I heard 600 billion, I thought maybe they would cut that in half after it was revealed they just pulled the number out of their ass. But instead they added another 150 in goodies. I’m shocked McCain didn’t jump to your side on this issue. Then he really could have called Obama a Socialist and he would have won the election.

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  10. Administration? You mean the person who writes the blog posts? That’s me.

    (By the way, if you read the above comments, it’s been over two years now and I’m still waiting for this terrible inflation that Craig Bolton and the rest of the Libertarians and Conservatives were whining about in 2008.)

  11. I didn’t notice you replied last February, Craig.

    Yes, the price of silver is up, which means people may still afraid of inflation, not that there really is inflation.

    In May 2008, the Wall Street Journal claimed inflation was right around the corner. They repeated the claim in May 2009. And again in May 2010. It’s now the 3-year anniversary of the “invisble bond vigilantees” and inflation is lower now than it was 3 years ago.

  12. Well, yeah… more so than silver.

    Maybe we’re looking at different graphs. I see a line ending lower than it was before the crash and about even with the whole decade.

    Come on. Be honest. Is this really where you thought the economy would be 3 years ago? Is this the apocalypse the fiscal right was warning us about?

    Why is inflation always bad? The dollar has always lost value over time, like all currencies. We’re in a deflationary trap where our major problem is no demand. We can’t force the poor to buy more because they already live paycheck to paycheck (and if they didn’t, the economy would be much worse). Everything Republicans want to do is for enriching the top 1%, the same people who always exacerbate economic crises by hoarding all the money. And statistics show that they continue to grow wealthier and wealthier, ordinary people owe more than their houses are worth, if they haven’t already been thrown out by the banks who for the first time in history own more residential housing worth than Americans themselves.

    Over half the country doesn’t want to raise the debt limit, but Paul Ryan’s “Kill Medicare” plan would force us to raise it at least 3 times to pay for gigantic tax cuts for the rich when Reagan and Bush already proved doesn’t work, economic crisis aside. I know you aren’t a Republican, but it also isn’t part of Libertarian philosophy to borrow extensively from the future to give money to same financial class that profited the most from the housing bubble AND the bailout. Not that Obama is going to try QE3, but isn’t borrowing to create jobs for the victims at least a better option than that?

  13. Maybe it is that you don’t know how to read graphs. These are percentage changes per time period. So long as “the line” is above zero there is inflation. That is the definition of inflation. Further, if you know anything about compounding, what you are looking at is the compounded rate of inflation, not just simple increases from a base period.

    So, yes, come on, be honest, or at least learn what you have to explain away before you start typing. .

  14. Why is inflation always bad? The dollar has always lost value over time, like all currencies. We’re in a deflationary trap where our major problem is no demand. We can’t force the poor to buy more because they already live paycheck to paycheck (and if they didn’t, the economy would be much worse).


    Sorry, I didn’t see the above nonsense before. Now you seem to be confusing inflation (an increase in the price level) with velocity of circulation of money. I can’t really tell what you are maintaining, but it looks like you are claiming that velocity of circulation moves inversely with national income. Of course, if there were true the economy would be self stabilizing – which I presume from everything you’ve said that you don’t believe What you do believe and what evidentiary support you have for it is, of course, still rather a mystery.

  15. I read the graph fine. It doesn’t change the fact that your prediction about “MAJOR inflation,” wasn’t just off by a certain degree, it was off by the direction.

    You mock my question about being honest but didn’t answer it. Is a DOW just under 12,000 and 3.2% inflation what you were warning about 3 years earlier?

    And no, I’m not confusing inflation with velocity of circulation. I was trying to explain that inflation is a good thing when you are in a liquidity trap because hoarders are still over-saving at 0% interest and an increase in money supply helps get unemployed resources used in the general economy, making it unlikely to cause inflation.

    After the economic collapse, which even Alan-freaking-Greenspan admits was caused by lax regulation (not Fannie and Freddie or the CRA forcing banks to loan to minorities), borrowers had to stop borrowing and start paying down their debt. But if lowering interest rates doesn’t make the lenders spend enough to offset what borrowers are now saving, then deflationary pressures will depress incomes and make it harder for the borrowers to pay down their debt, which in turn pressures lenders to lend even less, damaging the economy further in a deflationary spiral.

    What we really need is another stimulus and higher taxes on the richest 1% to help pay off the debt. I assume, like most Libertarians, you want more spending cuts, not higher taxes, but in reality, you can’t there from here. Republicans promised $100 billion cuts, claimed they cut $38 billion, and in reality cut only $352 million, less than 1% of what was promised, which itself was less than 1% of what was needed to pay off the $14 trillion debt. Only 40,000 years to go…

    David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal writes: “Say Congress zeroed out all annually appropriated domestic, nondefense spending, which amounts to about 17% of all federal outlays and excludes benefits such as Social Security and Medicare. That would mean no air-traffic controllers, tax collectors or cabinet secretaries. No test tubes, lights in federal buildings or federal job-training grants. The deficit in 2020? Still uncomfortably large: $668 billion and growing, according to estimates by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a deficit watchdog.” In comparison, the Sustainable Task Force, which includes Barney Frank and leading defense and budget experts, has identified $1 trillion in waste that that can be cut from the defense budget over the same 10 years by eliminating unnecessary Cold War-era programs.

    The United States has some of the lowest taxes in the world after Switzerland and tax bills in 2009 were at their lowest level since 1950. This is far too low considering the only time the budget was even balanced was during the Clinton era. Ireland, Britain, Germany and Texas have each been used by Republicans to prove that draconian cuts and austerity brought about a successful economy, but all four have fallen drastically since.

  16. The stock market grows basically for 2 reasons: 1) true growth of value, 2) inflation. Take away no. 2 and more risk-averse people will not see investing as a good deal. It’s more often better risk spending money now if you know the money will be worth less later. If there isn’t any inflation or deflation it’s a good strategy to just keep your money.

  17. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy”
    – Alexander Fraser Tyler,’The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic’

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  19. Well it’s 2014 now and I find myself wondering if the inflation is going to hit this year. Actually I think the reason hyper-inflation hasn’t hit yet is because no one has the money to spend. It all feels we’re going down the same road as Japan.

  20. Hayek’s economic theories were the driving force behind Thatcher’s policies and in this she was in synch with Ronald Reagan…. neoliberals economically both of them but certainly not not libertarians.
    But what the Hay… either camp sucks economically.

  21. Frankly I’m surprised Hayek had anything to do with Reagan since he believed so much in the power of tax cuts. The way Keynes is made out to be a Socialist, I get the feeling that they were just using him for a left vs. right narrative, much like today. I seriously doubt over half the people talking about Hayek today realize that he did not believe that tax cuts during a deficit “pay for themselves”.

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