You don't know what 'Libertarian' means...

If you want to know what libertarianism is all about, don’t ask a libertarian, because most of them don’t know. A new poll from Pew Research found that only 11% of those surveyed who identified themselves as libertarian were correctly able to identify the very basic meaning of libertarianism as “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.” Even though that's often an oxymoron, that's what libertarians say, and their followers apparently don't know it.

Weirdly, that same poll found that 41% of libertarians believe that the government should regulate business, 46% of libertarians believe that corporations make too much profit, and 38% of libertarians believe that government aid to the poor is a good thing.

Similarly, of the so-called libertarians polled, 42% believe that police should be able to stop and search people who "look like criminals," and 26% think “homosexuality should be discouraged.”

What happened to limited government and more individual freedoms? Basically, people in America who call themselves libertarians have absolutely no idea what libertarianism is really about.

So, let’s go over it for a second. Back in 1980, David Koch, one half of the Kochtopus, ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential candidate. And the platform that he ran on back in 1980 provides a great summary of what libertarianism is really about.

First, libertarians want to “urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission." In other words, they want to make it as easy as possible for corporations and wealthy billionaires to flood our democracy with corruptive cash and buy even more politicians. They want Citizen’s United on steroids – and then some.

Next up, libertarians “favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.” Instead, they want to privatize healthcare in America, so that their billionaire friends in the healthcare industry can get even richer, while working-class Americans are getting sicker and sicker. In fact, a 2012 analysis by Citigroup found that insurance company stocks would skyrocket if Medicare alone were to be privatized. And Big Pharma would experience a revenue and profit boom, too.

Just look at America’s experiences with Medicare Part D. A report released by the House of Representatives back in July of 2008 found that, two years into the Medicare Part D experiment, American taxpayers were paying up to 30% more for prescriptions under the privatized part of the program. And thanks to Medicare Part D, between 2006 and 2008 alone, drug manufacturers took in an additional $3.7 billion that they wouldn’t have gotten through drug prices under the public Medicaid program.

Meanwhile, the 1980 libertarian platform also says that libertarians “favor the repeal” of an “increasingly oppressive” Social Security system. They want to abolish Social Security, screw over working-class Americans, and take all the money that would go towards Social Security and invest it in Wall Street, so that their wallets can get even bigger. There's over $2.5 trillion sitting in the Social Security Trust Fund right now. Imagine how much money the libertarian banksters could make skimming even a fraction of a percent off the top of that every year.

Similarly, because libertarians want to hold on to their money and get even richer, they also “oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.” They don’t want to have any responsibility for society. Screw society! Naturally, libertarians also think that “all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”

According to Demos, in 2010, tax evasion cost the federal government $305 billion. Imagine what America could have done with that $305 billion. But, if you're rich, you shouldn’t have to pay any taxes under libertarianism.

Next up, libertarians want to repeal laws that affect “the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.” In other words, "Screw the workers! We're the billionaires and we don't give a damn about workers!" According to the 1980 platform, libertarians are also for the “complete separation of education and the state” and think that “government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”

Who cares about Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia, or Abraham Lincoln’s land-grant colleges? Screw public education! Poor people don't need to know how to read! Only rich people should be going to college, and billionaires can pay for their own kids' education!

And when they’re done attacking public education in America, libertarians want to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. After all, pollution can be so profitable. And who cares if a few million people get asthma or die of cancer? They're not rich people! Screw them. A 2010 study found that between 2005 and 2007, around 30,000 hospital trips and emergency-room visits could have been avoided in California alone if federal clean-
air standards had been met. Instead, those visits led to approximately $193 million worth of health care expenses for the American people. Guess who benefited from that $193 million?

Similarly, the 1980 platform makes it clear that libertarians also want to get rid of the Department of Energy, and close down any government agency that’s involved in transportation. No more standards for our roads, no more standards for our railways, no more standards for our airlines. Turn it all over to the billionaires. They can run it all and make a buck while they’re at it!

And libertarians want to privatize our public highways and turn them all into toll roads too. So, if you want to drive to work you have to pay the Koch Brothers!

Libertarians also want to do away with the Food and Drug Administration and the safety standards that agency imposes, so that Big Pharma and Big Ag can make even more money, while you and I are forced to deal with the consequences. Billionaires don’t have to worry if their food is safe. They can own their own farmland, and hire their own cheap labor to work it!

Along those same lines, the 1980 platform says that libertarians want to get rid of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. After all, if a kid is choking to death on some badly made cheapo toy, it's almost certain that it's a poor or working-class kid. One less moocher!

The 1980 libertarian platform also called for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Right. Workers don’t need protections. Employers can just be trusted to keep their employees who are working for minimum wage safe.

Finally, libertarians “oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs,” claiming that these programs are, “privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient.” Or, in other words, turn poverty over to the rich people. After all, they’ve always done such a great job taking care of poor people...

And, while it wasn’t explicitly in the 1980 platform, who can forget that libertarians are also opposed to the Title II of the Civil Rights Act which, “prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment.”

To add insult to injury, they’re also opposed to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex and nationality. Who needs civil rights anyway?

Clearly, Libertarianism is not what most Americans think it is. From wanting to privatize healthcare, to doing away with federal agencies and eliminating minimum wage laws, libertarianism put the interests of billionaires and the wealthy elite first, and the interests of everyone else dead last. And I do mean dead.

Now, ask yourself, is that the America you want to live in? I sure don't...


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 9 years 42 weeks ago

Libertarianism = Anarchism

Gee, the math is simple.

Cubey's picture
Cubey 9 years 42 weeks ago

Most people are idiots. Plan and simple.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 9 years 42 weeks ago

The cock brother's father took a page out of Stalin's book when he lived in Russia building refineries for the commie bastards. Then he came back to the U.S. and camoflaged his leanings and set up the john birch society which is most likely communist leaning. I think they are closet communists and don't give a shit about the people. All they care about is their psychopathic urge to destroy America just like Stalin, et al. They are doing it from the inside.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 9 years 42 weeks ago


harmonious1's picture
harmonious1 9 years 42 weeks ago

Libertarianism is the opposite of communitarianism. An individual facing the world contrasted with a community where we help and support our fellows.

Scarabus's picture
Scarabus 9 years 42 weeks ago

It ain't what you don't know that worries me. It's what you do know that just ain't so.

If those calling themselves libertarians are ignorant of all this, then what *do* they think libertarianism means?

Cubey's picture
Cubey 9 years 42 weeks ago

They think it's "looking out for #1". The world should be only how they theneselves want it.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 42 weeks ago

Every single self described Libertarian I've ever met has turned out to be a Republican who's just too damn ashamed and embarrassed to admit it. They all got suckered into rule by and only for the very rich! Being Foxmerized must be identical to being totally wasted all the time like Boehner!

Vegasman56 9 years 42 weeks ago

I found something on the Internet that might be interesting to you Thom and all of your followers.

Constitutional Accountability Center

Reversing Citizens United:

Lessons from the Sixteenth Amendment

January 20, 2012By David H. Gans and Ryan Woo

SHFabian's picture
SHFabian 9 years 42 weeks ago

Outstanding explaination of the libertarian agenda. Many oddly confuse "libertarianism" with "liberalism," though they're opposites. Confusion over the meaning of words is pretty common. Sen. Sanders, for example, considers himself socialist, yet he jumped on the Middle Class Only bandwagon; "Standing up to protect the status quo of the bourgeoisie!" Right. "Middle class" is a term that has been exploited in a way that confuses its meaning. Folks, if you're still in the middle class, by definition, you're doing great! A significant chunk of the population isn't.

ckrob's picture
ckrob 9 years 42 weeks ago

Off topic:

Thom, on last nite's BigPic you had a graphic of a militarized police line while you were advocating for federal programs to improve police departments. The militarization process was, unfortunately, a federal program. My point is that federal programs can effect the nation widely for good or ill. Without a well thought out federal program nudging communities, they tend to wander about. As a consequence, I think police power should not suffer from benign neglect at the highest levels of our (representative?) government. Now we suffer from a thirty year conservative philosophy of 'More Force' as the answer to every question. We need to model the sucessful N. European countries as an explicit process. We've amply demonstrated that our dash to the right is wrong.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 42 weeks ago

Great comments, CK! However an obstacle to what you've suggested is the Great American Ego. After all, we're the Leaders Of The Free World! How dare anyone suggest we model our society after someone else's! - AIW

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 42 weeks ago

Fabian, you keep accusing Senator Sanders of jumping on this "Middle Class Only bandwagon". And I keep explaining to you, the senator is concerned about the number of Americans falling off that wagon, or unable to climb on it, which means more people stuck in poverty. Would you prefer that everyone just be rich or poor? Because that's what we'll have without a middle class. - AIW

pure_mercury's picture
pure_mercury 9 years 41 weeks ago

Apparently, Thom Hartmann is too stupid to read the results of a study. He claims "A new poll from Pew Research found that only 11% of those surveyed who identified themselves as libertarian were correctly able to identify the very basic meaning of libertarianism as “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.'"

What does Pew actually say? "About one-in-ten Americans (11%) describe themselves as libertarian and know what the term means" AND "On the self-description question 14% said they were libertarian. For the purpose of this analysis we focus on the 11% who both say they are libertarian and know the definition of the term."

So, actually, 78.6% (11 out of 14) of the people who called themselves libertarians knew what it means.

Of course, he also blames Medicare Part D, which libertarians were AGAINST, as an example of private business taking unfair profits in health care. Funny that characterizes it that way, since most libertarians call it "the biggest entitlement expansion since the Great Society."

And he equates abolishing or reforming the FDA so "Big Pharma and Big Ag can make even more money," while neglecting that government pays for 40 cents of every dollar spent on health care in this country, which is hardly indicative of an adversarial relationship. Oh, and Big Agriculture HATES libertarians, because we are uniformly against farm subsidies, which are the worst kind of welfare today.

Also, libertarians support phasing mandatory Social Security contributions out, and letting people invest their own money. Perhaps he is confusing libertarians for George W. Bush? If so, that's a pretty serious conflation error.

In short, Thom Hartmann himself is the one who doesn't know what libertarian means. Either that, or he does know and has a vested interest in not telling the truth. But that just COULDN'T be the case, could it?

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 9 years 41 weeks ago

No, western idealized Libertarianism is not anarchism. That is the same kind of generalization that creates an ignorant public, of which, established power thrives on. Libertarianism is a word that covers a lot of different prospective. Anarchism too has a large umbrella that covers a lot of different schools of thought, however, some of those schools of thought are not based in traditional anarchist principles. Anarchism, like a lot of alternative forms of government, is misunderstood because of the established reactionary system that creates exaggerated misconception of a well-grounded principled system of government that has much more to do with the democratic process, than the American form of limited representative government. Anarchism has been presented to the public in an almost cartoonish form of free for all survival, bomb throwing and spiked purple mohawks, that is far from what traditional anarchism represents.

There are few examples of established Anarchist government in western society. Spain in the 1930’s, the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution along with a lot of pockets anarchism in Russia during that same time. A lot of propaganda was distributed by all forms of established government capitalist, fascist and communist all against anarchism. There was a collective effort among these established popular governments to crush the Spanish Anarchist during the Spanish Revolution. Anarchism biggest crime against established power is the fact that it asked the question. Can institutions of power be justified? The answer is normally no and that leads to all kinds of desperate attempts by power to eradicate that idea from the collective mind of the masses.

Western Libertarianism, the Ayn Rand Objectivist school of thought, has hitched its wagon to this anarchist principle of illegitimate power. They either misunderstood the concept or have deliberately bastardizing the principle to suit their own purposes. I think it’s the latter. Regardless of how Libertarians comes to their conclusions on the principles of government, the huge difference between the two forms of government is simple. Libertarians only ask the question of justification to specific forms of power like taxes, regulation, social benefit and mostly financial restriction, which is reflected in its leadership. Anarchist ask the much broader question of legitimization of all institution of power not just the state but unaccountable private power as well. Libertarians challenge some state institution but rarely challenges private forms of power, which should reveal their seriousness in following the anarchist principle of justification.

If you really want to understand the fundamental different between Anarchism and westernized Libertarianism, I suggested you read works by actual Anarchist thinkers like Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Goldman and others on the real principles of anarchist thought and theory. Then compare their collective works against the writings of Libertarian heroes like Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff and Ron Paul. You’ll find a vastly different ideology, with some superficial comparisons, but the overall governmental theories of the two systems could not be more different.

Libertarianism has open contempt for majority rule (Ayn Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness). Anarchism is based on collective consent (Anarchism – Noam Chomsky). I use the word “traditional” just to clarify that Anarchism has a background based in philosophy, theory and academics and not just some wild notion that exist just to arbitrarily undermine power.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 41 weeks ago

RE #15 - RichardofJeffer thank you for the education.

I think any system that cannot accomodate ignorance of 50% of the population is a non-starter. I am absolutely amazed at how well the New Deal worked when such ignorance existed. The form of government introduced by the new deal seems to provide the best historical evidence of what would work.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 41 weeks ago


wilmo94's picture
wilmo94 9 years 41 weeks ago

In my opinion, what is a better subject to debate and inform the American people about is, "Inverted Totalitarianism." Our economic and political systems are failed because of corporate domination and the big $$ from the wealthy elite. Inverted Totalitarianism explains the political game plan that the corporations have used and continue to impliment to maintain control over the American people. Libertarianism is just a distraction away from what the real issues are.

wilmo94's picture
wilmo94 9 years 41 weeks ago

New Deal Economics lead us into our nation's greatest economic and social gains in our history. History now has demonstrated how the deregulation and the dismantaling of the New Deal by the Corporate Facsists have lead us and the rest of the world down the road of economic doom for the majority of our citizens. History notes the greatest economic inequality in world history! The richest 845 people in the world own more wealth than the bottom half o the world's population combined. The corporatists support an economic model the goes back to the turn of the 19th cetury. These corporatists support an economy where the people serve the economy, rather than the economy serving the people. In other words, the people serve the corporations, where the corporations have become the government. Exactly why our Constitution is being undermined daily. The people are the treat of this system.

LivingnDetroit's picture
LivingnDetroit 9 years 41 weeks ago

Has the official Libertarian platform changed since 1980?

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