This is How Many Shits I Give About Converting Conservatives to Libertarians

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Last weekend, I asked the Thoughts on Liberty Facebook group for some suggestions on what to post about last week, as I was having a major case of writer’s block. I was intrigued by the first two responses (and the support for them):

"Please stop talking about sex"

No, actually, I won’t. We won’t.

I will not direct TOL’s writers to stop talking about sex or relationships. These are completely natural and wholesome parts of human existence, and they are things that the state interferes in. It is completely legitimate for libertarians to discuss them. In fact, they do not discuss them enough. State interference in these realms has some of the most direct impact on people’s lives, an impact that they feel and understand beyond a few pennies a year being taken out of their paychecks. These subjects are perfect topics through which we can introduce others to the freedom philosophy.

I am immeasurably proud of TOL’s writers, who are brave to speak openly about topics that cause other writers, other publications, to tuck in their tails, for fear of reprisal. They speak of their own lifestyles, and those of others, and plead for tolerance. Tolerance is an essential tenant of freedom, and TOL’s writers embody the best of libertarianism in their fearlessness in confronting topics that few in our realm seem to want to.

It’s not that I don’t want conservatives to be libertarians. I do. I want everyone to be advocates for freedom. But you might want to look for someone else to bring in those folks. I doubt a polyamorous, pagan, sex-positive, social justice advocate is gonna do it.

Conservatives, as they currently exist in American politics, have a pretty narrow view of how the world should be and how people should live their lives. Lots of them claim to want to be left alone—and certainly that is their prerogative. However, many do not do others the same courtesy. They attempt to “persuade”—and by that I mean shame—others away from the peaceful ways they choose to live their lives, from loving people of the same gender to loving more than one person to choosing to not love or live at all. They try and back this up with “science” and “reasoning,” but any amount of pressure shows that these reasons are just smoke screens for what they are really after: Making people behave the same way they do.

If they are to properly join libertarianism, conservatives need to lose this impulse, and they are not going to do so if we avoid these topics. Persuasion has its place, and we should all share ideas of what it means to live a good life, but the difficult part of freedom is the utter humility that comes with simply knowing that you don’t know what’s best for someone else’s life.

As Cathy Reisenwitz says:

I don’t know how you should have sex, have kids, whether you should get a job, whether you should stay home with your kids. But no matter what, if you make that choice and if it’s a cooperative choice, you’re accepted… we’re not going to judge you.

If someone doesn’t get that, then libertarianism would never have appealed to them in the first place. But if conservatives can agree to that, then they are more than welcome to come join the party over here at TOL. Except if they believe that, they’re not really conservatives anymore—they’re libertarians.

  • Gina, thank you. I also had the same reaction when I saw people write that we should stop writing about sex. All I thought was NO, WE NEED MORE SEX!

  • jdkolassa

    Damn.

    I’m participating in this month’s Cato Unbound issue, which is on fusionism, but now part of me thinks you should have been picked instead.

    http://www.cato-unbound.org

    • Thank you! That is high praise indeed.

    • Read your essay. Excellent.

      • jdkolassa

        Thank you! Make sure to read them all!

  • Marmaduke

    No true Scotsman could ever be pro-sex!

    Here’s a thought: I’ve noticed a lot of libertarians seem to think that “tolerance” means never holding any views about how sexual behavior might impact society at large, for better or for worse. Conservatives aren’t afraid to talk about those things, though I suppose you’re right that their claims are often hard to justify. Even on this site, the responses to those who say, for example, that maybe the hookup culture isn’t actually empowering to women, are basically “shut up yes it is because I like it! How dare you suggest something within a range of possible behaviors could not be good!”

    • I think most of the people here on TOL tend to say “Hey, your assumptions about hookup culture being damaging aren’t really that well-founded. It’s more accurate to say that it works for some people an it doesn’t for others. Do what you want to do and I won’t judge you. ”

      That is, basically, the premise of Cathy Reisenwitz’s article here: http://thoughtsonliberty.com/give-casual-sex-a-chance

  • Great post, Gina. As someone who does not self-identify as a conservative, I am inclined to agree. However, I still believe that culture wars, when kept OUT of legislation, are entirely legitimate. I respect that some people dislike talking or reading about sex, but that does not make them any less libertarian. I think that we also have to be actively tolerant of people who are uncomfortable with the subject, even if we don’t agree with them. You can dislike reading about sex and still be a libertarian; we should avoid shaming people out of the movement as well.

    • I guess I agree, but the answer to being uncomfortable reading about sex is to read the other 99% of the libertarian blogosphere that won’t touch it, not to tell us to focus on the Federal Reserve.

      • this is true

      • Pochy

        Because the Federal Reserve, NATO, UN and other government agencies actually HARM us. Our money, our lives, and our liberty. Gay Marriage, Abortion and Positive State Sponsored “Rights”is less important in the grand scheme on things.

    • I am not sure what, in this post as-written, is shaming people who are uncomfortable talking about sex?

      • Not exactly high praise for conservatives:

        “Conservatives, as they currently exist in American politics, have a pretty narrow view of how the world should be and how people should live their lives. Lots of them claim to want to be left alone—and certainly that is their prerogative. However, many do not do others the same courtesy. They attempt to “persuade”—and by that I mean shame—others away from the peaceful ways they choose to live their lives, from loving people of the same gender to loving more than one person to choosing to not love or live at all. They try and back this up with “science” and “reasoning,” but any amount of pressure shows that these reasons are just smoke screens for what they are really after: Making people behave the same way they do.”

        • I do think that anyone who says “X is the best/only correct way to live one’s life” (whether that person is liberal or conservative) is going to find their argument folds under pressure, and many will continue to push that anyway. When this happens, it seems to me that said person is not really asking people to live a life that is objectively correct, but rather the life that they endorse and they chose. Some folks do not feel that their decisions are the right ones for them unless they are right for everyone.

          Now, it is true that this does happen with conservatives just as much as with liberals. There are elements of both “sides” of ideology who both make and break this “rule.” However, in our current political landscape, it is more often those who lean conservative who are guilty of this than liberals.

          • Libertarianism=Social-Destruct

            the only correct way to live life is: monogamous relationship + plenty of children for White societies, where monogamy has been the norm for 2000+ years.

            Reisenwitz, Sanchez, Luttrell, Cultural Marxist media has done a lot to destroy white societies, white institutions – faith, marriage, children.

            Libertarianism encourages pedophilia, where 2 individuals, a child & an adult can have sex, since all “free” individual associations are allowed.

            White population is aging, shrinking, dying, close to extinction. whereas non-white populations are aggressively exploding. This is democide.

            In the Himalayas, Punjab, Polyandry has been prevalent. In China, Muslim Countries, polygamy has been common. Each society has unique genetics, cultural roots. Dont impose other values on White societies.

          • d Kim

            poe’s.

          • The Caniac

            As a conservative libertarian I think you miss something. Just because I want people to be able to make their own decisions on how they live their lives doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on what is best for them.

            I believe drug use – where it does not effect others – should be a decision we are free to make. However, I do not think that sharing a heroin needle under a bridge is healthy, so I will warn people against such behavior.

            Similarly, I believe the First Amendment grants us the freedom to speak as we will, even to the degree of vile and hateful bigotry, without government intervention.

            These things can be legal, yet physically and morally wrong. The same goes for sex. It’s legality should not inhibit one’s own moral compass.

            I think being Libertarian means wanting people to make their own decisions – and to enjoy or suffer the consequences – on their lifestyle and well-being. It’s not about condoning behavior, but about accepting your right to behave as you will.

            But that’s just me. What the hell do I know.

    • I agree Rachel. I also agree with most of the narrative in Gina’s post. However, the author comes across to me in the article as if she has “The” definitions of libertarianism and persuasion (the proper kind is never defined). The author doesn’t give many if any shits about drawing more cons into the Libertarian party or how many readers she “turns off” with elitist and purposefully provocative statements. To use “gasp”!! a biblical phrase, the author seems to have set herself up as the Chosen One to separate the sheep from the goats. I see none of the utter humility mentioned in the post anywhere.
      I love TOL, even though at times I feel that if I don’t drink the Kool-ade that day then I haven’t fully evolved. I get that TOL is a place, maybe even the place, for women to write about Libertarian issues and issues of Freedom in general.
      I think the title of the post and its wording speaks volumes about the author seeks to throw her opinions into the face of the readers. Am I the only one that thinks this might not be the best approach to reach out to people? Oh, wait, remember the title.

  • Great post. As someone who is very private about her sexuality, I must admit that blatant sex talk often turns me off. However, I agree that the way to change the conversation in society is to keep talking about it, and quit shaming others who have different lifestyles. I also agree with Rachel’s comment that we have to be tolerant of people who are uncomfortable with it.

  • You talk about it way too much. We are $16 Trillion in debt. The three out of the top four articles above the comment box are the cam girl, give casual sex a chance, and slut shaming. You post too much about it. There are wars going on, the economy sucks. There are a LOT of issues that libertarians should be talking about. The sex obsession is kind of weird.

    • Matthew, the area you’re referring to is an automatically-generated list of posts that are similar to the one you’re reading. Since this post is tagged with casual sex and some other things, the list generates our other posts on it.

      The topics of the 10 posts before mine are:

      Unplugging from the news
      Israel/US relations
      Cam girl post
      Whether or not the Stone Mountain carving should be removed
      Whether social media makes us more alone
      Shaming parents for choosing not to vaccinate
      Immigration reform and the Boston Marathon Bombing
      2nd Amendment and rape culture
      Casual Sex
      The economy’s affect on mental health

      So, only about 20% of our content the past two weeks has been about sex. TOL’s authors also have great things to say about other topics, and I would encourage you to explore the other 80% of the website.

      • I find it interesting that everyone says TOL is too much about sex, but I wonder if they only notice the sex because we’re women talking about sex? or because they only want to notice things they don’t wanna talk about? – just a random thought

        • I think our most popular posts have been about sex, because, well, sex sells.

    • Obviously, she’s writing about sex. Other posts about sex are going to come up as “related,” making it look like that’s all we talk about. Looking at the past week of posts will absolutely debunk the idea that TOL only writes about sex.

      Time to Turn Off The News and Enjoy Life

      Don’t Let Israel Turn Some Americans Into Second Class Citizens

      Yes, I am a Cam Girl and I Have Self-Respect <<–Only sex post!

      In News Surprising No One, Georgia Residents Glorify Racist Past

      3 Good Reasons Parents Don’t Vaccinate (Even Though They Should)

      There are so many topics that we COULD be talking about, and we cover a lot of them. We also cover social issues, which includes sex.

    • You have the rest of the libertarian internet to read about the national debt.

  • Tolerance is exactly what we need and what a libertarian society requires to exist. Nobody has to like anything that somebody else does but we all have to respect the rights of others to determine their own values.

  • This is a great attitude for the libertarians who overwhelmingly tend to be NT/Rationals (only 5% of the population) but what about the SJ/Guardians (http://keirsey.com/4temps/guardian_overview.asp) (40% to 45% of population) who “… also believe in law and order, and sometimes worry that respect for authority, even a fundamental sense of right and wrong, is being lost. Perhaps this is why Guardians honor customs and traditions so strongly — they are familiar patterns that help bring stability to our modern, fast-paced world.” I hate to say this but libertarians/NTs (http://keirsey.com/4temps/rational_overview.asp) need to hear it. It is as unnatural for an SJ/Guardian not to try to ‘fix’ someone by changing them into a someone more like themselves, as it is for a NT/Rational to believe in truth based upon absolute authority. Our differences are differences of TEMPERAMENT, and are therefore as inflexibly imposed upon our nature as our gender and sexual preferences. Add to this the SP/Artisans (http://keirsey.com/4temps/artisan_overview.asp) who embrace pragmatism above all else, as well as the NF/Idealists (http://keirsey.com/4temps/idealist_overview.asp) who believe in rule by good intentions, and one can begin to appreciate why libertarianism is such a hard sell. I can not emphasize this enough here. Personality Temperament is political destiny, … and being somewhat inflexible for each individual leaves us with a lot less hope for changing others minds. NT/Rationals/Libertarians; NF/Idealists/Empaths; SJ/Guardians/Social Conservatives; SP/Artisans/Pragmatists. This is one of those unpalatable truths versus comfortable lies that happen frequently when looking at the world as it is, and not as we would prefer it to be. Liberty is a hard sell. It always has been. It always will be. For more see “I Trust You” (http://www.dailypaul.com/comment/2664630)

    • Oh you did NOT just bring MBTI into this. Resident ENFP here, and I follow the logic of libertarianism without much difficulty. My logic muscle works just fine.

      There are plenty of NF/SJ/SP libertarians, more so than NTs in my experience—there are just a disproportional number of NTs than when compared to the rest of the population. But as libertarian gains momentum (and it is, quite rapidly), what is “traditional” or “acceptable” changes as well. Appeals like the one Gina laid out here are steps in that right direction.

      Don’t straw man SJ/SPs; they are perfectly capable of understanding Gina’s logic and applying it into their own lives (especially if they see it as a just goal). If they see that an institution ceases to function as they perceived it, they are capable of changing their minds. These people are people… not robots :.

      Gina also has a good response to Caplan’s post here: http://thoughtsonliberty.com/when-discussing-why-more-women-arent-libertarians-we-are-shown-precisely-why-more-women-arent-libertarians

      • Another Idealist libertarian here, but would like to qualify I am ‘me’ first, foremost, not some label that is often over generalised. I know many Guardians are more than fine and dandy to discuss sex along with economics. Don’t pigeon-hole Guardians they might just surprise you. Idealists can tend to dislike intensely any form of oppression, my first venture into learning, meeting libertarians wasn’t pleasant, ‘seemingly’ over represented with wanna-be-intellectual-upstart-misogynists. Than a friend introduced me (cyberspace wise) to Dr Sharon Presley. What a learning curve. Great work Gina and team. You make libertarianism fun and I always learn something, whether it be economics, tin tac libertarianism theory, global issues, domestic policy, sharpening critical thought muscle, et al.

  • See Gina, this is a problem:

    ” They attempt to “persuade”—and by that I mean shame—others away from the peaceful ways they choose to live their lives, from loving people of the same gender to loving more than one person to choosing to not love or live at all. ”

    I think that Libertarian ideas should be concerned with laws and institutions alone – the use of force alone. We are not here to rob people of the ability to make judgments. If someone doesn’t like something about anothers’ lifestyle, we need to demonstrate to them that the only appropriate responses are acceptance OR shaming, not law or force. If you take the shaming ability away from them, then they will turn to the latter.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t also be “intolerant of intolerance”, but I don’t think there is a huge distinction between “live and let live” and the non-aggression principle.

    • I think that’s a sad view of libertarianism. My conception holds way more promise for a better, more pleasant world, and not just one with fewer laws.

    • That’s the thing, though. The only responses are NOT acceptance or shaming. There is a wide range of options in between, one of which is just sharing your own life experiences and saying how they’ve helped you. Like I said, we should all be sharing ideas of what it means to live a good life. However, subjective value is a pretty core libertarian economic principle, and so few people apply that to lifestyle choices, it borders, IMO, on inconsistency.

  • In a way you’re giving a lot of credit to many conservatives Gina. There is a very large contingent of conservatives who not only try to “persuade” (shame/denigrate), but try to use the state to enforce their vision of morality.

    • Hooray for lib-leaning conservatives 🙂

    • There sure are. However, I know enough conservatives to know that there is also a large contingency who prefer to try and persuade or shame. I don’t think that conservatives who want to use the state to enforce their opinions are even close to being libertarians. The ones who try and shame probably are closer, and so those are the ones I’d seek to change.

  • I would like to agree with the fellow who said the economy is more important than sex. It is. The economy, after all, covers the bottom rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy, like food, shelter, clothing, protection, etc. In the absence of Maslow’s higher-order attainments, humans simply feel unfulfilled. In the absence of these lower-order ones, they die. Clearly, the economic issues are supreme.

    But so what? The fact is, for the vast majority of Americans, those low-tier problems are actually not serious threats. Much of what we libertarians are fighting for in the economic sphere is essentially more spending cash, which would be used for purposes of fulfillment, not survival. That said, sex is among the single most fulfilling activities you can engage in on a regular basis. It consistently ranks in competition with income as a prime indicator of relationship stability, and is pretty much universally acknowledged to be more fun than just about anything else.

    If sex, and the state’s absurd role in it, isn’t a legitimate (and tragically under-represented) topic of libertarian discussion, then we need to broaden the base of acceptable talking points.

    • Couldn’t agree more!

    • Not to mention the fact that discussions about the economy are (a) way beyond many people’s comprehension and (b) incredibly over-saturated in both politics and libertarian commentary.

      • (a). This may be true of many undereducated and those that are economically and politically disillusioned. This is understandable given the grinding unemployment and the political paralysis. IMHO, it comes across as profoundly snobbish.
        (b). I agree.

    • Ronjamin Fist

      If you’re a libertarian fighting economic issues you may want to back down.

      Property rights haven’t exactly managed to satisfy Maslow’s hierarchy in the entire history of its existence, it would be beyond delusional to consider them a useful tool now.

  • Tail Gunner

    Liberaltarians are like grapefruit: yellow on the outside, red on the inside. Next thing you know these “libertarians” will be sitting on top of NVA tanks in Hanoi!

    • Can’t tell if trolling or a dumbass.

    • Ronjamin Fist

      As an actual socialist I find this insulting.

      I would never conspire with Libertarian idiots.

  • Someone “shaming” you for a behavior they find immoral isn’t anti-Libertarian. What would be anti-Libertarian is if that someone supported legislation to stop you from doing it (or any other form of violence).

    I’m not conservative or religious in the slightest, but I still think this article, and others by these ladies, are complete crocks. Beyond not initiating violence against things you may personally find disgusting, libertarianism has NOTHING to do with “tolerance.” For example, if someone owns a burger joint and puts a big “whites only” sign outside his business, I would see no problem with the community “shaming” that person. I wouldn’t try to use violence to stop him, but I might boycott his business or organize other forms of peaceful protest. What he’s doing is completely legal under libertarian law, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. If someone speaks out against promiscuity, that doesn’t make them anti-Libertarian. I feel like you deserve to be shamed for writing such senseless drivel. So shame! Shammmmmmme!

    • I beg to differ. Libertarianism is everything to do with tolerance. Libertarianism demands that you tolerate the person who hangs a “whites only” sign out; to not tolerate him/her would be to try and force the state and make them take that sign down. I do also think that shaming them would be un-libertarian because you’re using social forces to effectively coerce someone into acting in a way you see fit. John Stuart Mill talks a lot about this.

      You can refuse to patronize that business in an attempt to express your preferences. You can try and persuade them that their position is wrong, but I do not think that using social pressures to get someone to do what you want is a libertarian strategy.

      • What exactly do you mean when you say “shaming?” I’m curious. Calling something like that un-libertarian seems a rather slippery slope to me. I wouldn’t characterize “shaming” (at least how I’m thinking of it) as violence or aggression. If that were the case, a whole lot of stuff could be construed as aggression as well, and be made illegal. I haven’t read John Stuart Mill, but I can see how one could consider the use of social pressures as coercion, however not the sort of coercion that would be a violation of the NAP or libertarian law. I still maintain that it’s acceptable to be against casual sex, shame and demean people for doing it, and still be a Libertarian.

        I’m not defending shaming, I think it’s unseemly and for whiny busy-bodies who think they have some sort of moral high-ground. But I also think picking your nose is unseemly, however I wouldn’t call someone who did not-a-libertarian.

        I agree with you about tolerance. It requires you tolerate all varieties of peaceful behavior to the point that you don’t use violence to try and stop it. That’s why I said “Beyond not initiating violence…” in my original post.

        • jdkolassa

          “I’m not defending shaming, I think it’s unseemly and for whiny
          busy-bodies who think they have some sort of moral high-ground. But I also think picking your nose is unseemly, however I wouldn’t call someone who did not-a-libertarian.”

          ^ This.

  • Morgan

    Gina, can you explain what you mean by shaming? You’ve used it in several contexts and I don’t think I’m clear on what you mean when you use it. Thanks!

    • Shaming is, basically, the act of making someone feel guilty or inferior for the choices they make. Making them feel ashamed. Shaming is, sadly, an effective way to get people to behave in ways that they don’t want to for fear of societal reprisal. I do not think that any decision that is voluntary should be shamed, even if/when that decision deviates from what (a) I would do or (b) what society says one should do.

      • Scott Tillman

        Is it ok to talk bad about ponzi schemes? To tell someone that eating
        fast food 3 times a day 7 days a week is a poor lifestyle choice?

        What if I recommend people don’t do business with or associate with the guy who kicks his dog?

        Shaming is a productive way to get change, and it’s peaceful. Shaming can be countered by reason as you point out when talking about other ways to change a person’s mind.
        Also, shaming is subjective. I may feel guilt where you don’t, you may feel guilt where I don’t. Both of us could unintentionally by our words or actions make the other person feel ashamed. I know libertarians who are jerks on purpose and jerks unintentionally. So long as force is not being used you’re golden.

  • Bumr50

    Well, Gina, you almost had me defending you.

    But then I thought to myself, “Self, what exactly are these Facebookers telling her to shut up about?”

    So I looked.

    And while I can certainly defend all of your columns from an intellectual standpoint, you’re clearly writing in a pattern that strongly suggests that you have a really big problem with Conservatives who want to explore libertarian philosophy, but aren’t willing to subscribe to your rather austere and restrictive definition of “libertarianism.”

    All of your blog posts reflect that animus.

    I’d rather we try and find common ground.

    • So, the comments were criticizing TOL, not me personally, for writing too much about sex. I have responded to that here.

      As far as my personal attitude towards conservatives, I strongly disagree with the libertarian impetus to align with them (many TOL writers disagree with me, of course). I think libertarians tend to neglect and forget that social freedoms are just as important as economic freedoms. Indeed, they are inexorable, but too many want to talk about one and not the other. There is a serious gap in libertarian commentary in talking about social freedoms and social coercion, and I want to fill that gap. I think it’s more important to fill that gap and present libertarianism as a whole, consistent ideology, than to sweep certain things under the rug for the sake of “finding common ground.”

      • Bumr50

        I don’t necessarily disagree with you that you need to stick to your philosophical guns.

        Electorally, however, we are running out of time to save a modicum of the US Constitution, and the free republic that it outlines.

        That’s just the way it is.

        (What can I say…I’m a Libra! You know, scales and all that…:-))

  • TurkeyLurkey

    So exactly why is it that almost all libertarian-leaning politicians in Washington today are conservatives?

    • Because they tend to be connected to the Republican Party if they’re active in politics.

      • I think that at least rhetorically the Republican Party more closely aligns with libertarianism as well.

        It’s pretty hard to imagine a libertarian leaning politician aligning with the democrat party lol, whose policy prescriptions are almost always more government.

  • Except libertarianism is NOT synonymous with tolerance. Libertarianism does not mean no one should shame anyone else for what they believe are poor life decisions. It means those people should not turn to government to FORCE people to live according to the lifestyle they advocate. There is nothing unlibertarian about attempting to convince people to live the same way as you do so long as you aren’t attempting to use government to force it on people.

    • Gullible-White-Cattle

      yes. But you need govt force to punish pedophilia. 1/6 population is underage. Under libertarian ideology, all are individuals, even a child. All associations b/w individuals are okay, as long as its non-violent. So children can be conned into sexual abuse.

      Libertarianism was Jewish strategy to atomize, undermine, white societies, to make them powerless in the face of highly organized, aggressive, collectivist groups like Judaism, Islam, Asians, Hispanics.

  • Sorry! I wouldn’t do it or advise it, but shaming is allowed in liberty!

  • Ronjamin Fist

    Needs more socialism.