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From FDR to today’s GOP: How the meaning of ‘freedom’ changed

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Tea party supporter Susan Clark of California protesting in front of the Supreme Court building during the third day of legal arguments over the Affordable Care Act in 2012.

In his 1941 State of the Union Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt rather famously enumerated what he called the “four essential human freedoms.” They were: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and freedom from want.

On his PBS interview show, Bill Moyers recently interviewed University of Wisconsin historian Harvey Kaye, who’s out with a book “The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What made FDR and the greatest generation truly great.”

Thinking about the times in which we now live, what struck me was that fourth freedom — “freedom from want” — and that a great liberal lion like FDR, as recently as the 1940s, could not only declare a global crusade against “want” but could couch it as a fight for “freedom.”

It’s surprising to my 21st century ears because, in general, “freedom” and “liberty” have become buzzwords of the anti-government right — especially the Tea Party and “liberty” wings of the Republican Party. When freedom-talk occurs in those contexts, most often the subtext is about freedom from government taxes and regulations and mandates — so much so that the subliminal argument (and sometimes it’s more explicit than subliminal) is that everything a government might do is a subtraction from our liberty.

In the context of that rhetoric, the spectrum of possibilities runs not from freedom to tyranny, but from freedom to government, almost as if any action by “government”equals “tyranny.”

The idea that the leader of the U.S. government could — in 1941 — announce a plan to guarantee “freedom from want” sort of scrambles the whole picture. If I imagine a contemporary righty hearing such a proposal, it must seem like the opposite of freedom. Taken literally, it seemingly opens the door to an unlimited expansion of government spending and government programs as long as there is anyone still in a condition of “want.”

Of course, that’s taking things a bit too literally. Roosevelt — who had already signed into law Social Security, the first of the great entitlement programs — didn’t actually lay out a list of the programs, or the cost to the taxpayers, of a crusade to eliminate “want.”

But in today’s climate, the Republican “freedom” talk is likewise seldom linked to an actual list of the various government functions, programs and benefits that would have to be eliminated in order to restore to the taxpayers the “freedom” to hang onto their hard-earned dollars.

President Franklin Roosevelt
Photo by Elias Goldensky
President Franklin Roosevelt

Twasn’t always thus. Let’s take, for a moment, the separate cases of the two Koch brothers, the oil billionaires who have spent and raised (through the amazing “independent expenditures” gag) great googobs of money to spread the less-government-is-more-freedom gospel.

One of the brothers, David Koch, used to be an active member of the Libertarian Party. David Koch was actually nominated as the vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket way back in 1980 (meaning he was opposing Ronald Reagan from the right).

Having Koch on the ticket gave the Libertarians a significant budget, which may have helped the party garner more than 1 percent of the total popular vote for the only time since the party started fielding a presidential ticket, 46 years ago.

One of the things I respect about the Libertarians is that they have a coherent philosophy and generally don’t run away from its implications. They believe that maximum liberty flows from minimal government and minimal taxes. Republicans often say similar things, but when put on the spot to specify the government functions and programs that would reduce or eliminate, they generally resort to ambiguity.

Not so the Libertarian Party.

What the Koch brothers want

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the only avowed “socialist” in the Senate, recently wrote and published on various lefty sites a  piece headlined “What Do the Koch Brothers Really Want?” He presumed that what the Koch Brothers really want is along the lines of the program on which David Koch ran in 1980. That year, the Libertarian Party platform advocated:

  • An end to the individual and corporate income and capital gains taxes, leading eventually to “repeal of all taxation,” but with a possible interim step in which all criminal and civil penalties for tax evasion would be “terminated immediately;”

  • The “abolition” of Medicare, Medicaid and (“the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive”) Social Security system, although with a possible interim step of making participation in Social Security voluntary;

  • Abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission…

  • A “complete privatization” of public roads and highways, also complete privatization of all schools and repeal of compulsory education laws and all minimum wage laws;

  • An “end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children;”

  • Opposition to “all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs,” which the party declared to be “privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient.”

Well, you get the idea. The full Ayn Rand vision.

I don’t know if it’s fair to assume that what the Koch brothers “really want” can be literally taken from that platform. But I do know that since those days the Kochs, like many Republicans, have figured out that people like to talk of more freedom, less government, lower deficits, lower taxes and more individual liberty, but that it is much less clear that people like the specific budget cuts and program eliminations.

David Koch
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
David Koch was nominated as the vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket in 1980.

In more recent cycles, the Kochs have given their support to Republicans. The ideological center of that great party has moved to the right in the sense of portraying government as intrusive, excessive, socialistic and liberty-destroying. But — unlike the Libertarians — Republicans generally avoid specifying the litany of programs they wish to disestablish.

The elder Koch brother, Charles G. Koch, followed that practice in an op-ed piece he recently wrote for the Wall Street Journal that illustrated the politically shrewd way to wrap oneself in the language of liberty and freedom, and to define government as the antithesis of freedom but without specifying any of the benefits that some people might receive from government intervention. Wrote the other Mr. Koch:

Instead of fostering a system that enables people to help themselves, America is now saddled with a system that destroys value, raises costs, hinders innovation and relegates millions of citizens to a life of poverty, dependency and hopelessness. This is what happens when elected officials believe that people’s lives are better run by politicians and regulators than by the people themselves. Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.


The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.

These are interesting, if familiar assertions, and the use of “collectivism” is a nice touch, avoiding the inflammatory words “socialism” and “communism” but eliciting the same reaction. Still, in keeping with the current practice of calling for less government in general, Charles Koch’s essay does not specify any of the elements of the current fabric of what liberals like to call the “safety net” that would have to be abolished in order for us to get our liberty back. The really big and generally most beloved — Social Security and Medicare — and the one that is most sacred to the right — military spending — would presumably have to be sacrificed or shrunken. But, unlike the 1980 Libertarian platform, Koch does not say so.

‘Freedom and liberty’

I called Harvey Kaye, who wrote the “Four Freedoms” book, to ask about my impression that “freedom and liberty” language has moved from the left in FDR’s day to the right today.

“Liberty,” he said, has been a magic word in America since at least the time of the revolution. It “trumps democracy,” he said. Advocates of causes in all periods and across the spectrum have fought to associate themselves with it. Slaveholders defended their peculiar institution on “liberty” grounds, he said, arguing that their property rights, including the right to own slaves, was a fundamental American freedom, Kaye said.

“There’s a solid argument to be made that the most valued and contested idea in U.S. history is the idea of freedom,” said. Those who want to transform America inevitably argue that whatever it is they are advocating would liberate us. And you could argue that when political power passes from one group to another, it passes because the group that wins the argument has associated its ideas with freedom and liberty in a way that convinces others who are outside their core group.

Kaye agreed with my premise, that in the most recent period the right has been more aggressive and successful at justifying its policy preferences on freedom grounds. But FDR demonstrated in his day that even a leader who seeks to increase the power and reach of the government and use it to redistribute wealth can do so with freedom talk.

In fact, Kaye mentioned that FDR had asserted the fundamental freedom argument for progressive policies when he said that “Necessitous men are not free men.”

I must confess, I didn’t know the quote, nor had I ever heard the word “necessitous.” Turns out, FDR borrowed the quote, including the word, from an 18th century British court ruling.

FDR dusted off the quote in his 1944 State of the Union Address in which he enunciated a “Second Bill of Rights.” He translated the quote to mean that “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made” because they are so needy they will sacrifice their freedom.

FDR’s ‘second Bill of Rights’

Speaking as World War II was coming to a successful close and his own life was also nearing its end, speaking as the worst period in U.S. economic history was ending and the best was beginning, Roosevelt told the Congress and a national listening audience:

  • These economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

  • The right of every family to a decent home;

  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

  • The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

Effective Democracy is a year-long series of occasional reports supported by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, as part of a grant made to MinnPost and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Comments (152)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/28/2014 - 09:48 am.

    The Koch brothers are “talking their book”. Each of their proposals add directly to their wealth.

    The trick is to get people who will not be helped (and probably be harmed by your proposals) to fight for those extra dollars for your pocket.

    What works better than “patriotism” and “freedom”?

    There’s a rancher in Nevada who figured this out also.

    A real debasement that has occurred when the idea of the founding of America is entirely centered on “free-market” economics–especially when it is to the benefit of the wealthy.

  2. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 04/28/2014 - 10:14 am.

    Strange idea of freedom

    What the Kochs describe as freedom, I see as guaranteeing the ability of the more powerful to squash the less powerful without government interference. No wonder they hate the government, because the government is what we have to protect our freedom from the next billionaire coming along to confiscate it.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 04/28/2014 - 05:32 pm.


      Eric Black: “One of the things I respect about the Libertarians is that they have a coherent philosophy.”

      To the contrary, the Libertarian position is the definition of incoherence: It purports to exalt freedom above all else but in practice would produce its opposite by allowing wealth and power to aggregate in fewer and fewer hands, as they necessarily will do without society’s collective action to mediate the destructive consequences of an ungoverned society on the economy, the environment, the capacity for self-government and the basic ability of ordinary people to provide for themselves. Principled Libertarianism is anarchy aspiring to feudalism. If Libertarianism departs from its absolutism to admit of any collective role in setting rules or policing the playing field, then it becomes a matter of making policy judgments about what level of collective constraint on individual prerogative optimizes a meaningful concept of freedom. And then it’s no longer Libertarianism, it’s progressivism.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/28/2014 - 10:40 am.

    Nuance is required

    As has been said several times in recent decades by people with better brains than mine, “words matter,” and “freedom” is one of those words that not only rings an emotional and patriotic bell (not only in the U.S., but around the world), but is malleable enough to be co-opted for use by – as Eric’s piece makes clear – patrons of both the left and right.

    What I used to tell my high school students – and adolescents as a group are nothing if not actively stretching their intellectual and social muscles, as well as their physical ones – was that, much as in real life, the question of “freedom” was very seldom one of an absolute dichotomy. Notwithstanding the rhetoric used by advocates of both the left and the right, almost never is a choice between “freedom” on the one hand and “tyranny” on the other. More typically, it’s a matter of degree.

    Arguments that government is inherently and blatantly evil, and must be done away with, are, more or less by definition, anarchist, and frankly, not to be taken seriously. Grover Norquist’s expressed antipathy to government – wanting to make it small enough to “drown in the bathtub” – appears to be based on a similar assumption, that government in any form, but especially the national version, is automatically repressive in numerous ways and on numerous levels, and is somehow illegitimate, though I’m not sure if the illegitimacy comes from the repression or the other way around.

    Having no anarchist tendencies myself beyond ignoring an occasional speed limit, I’m inclined toward the notion that government – of some sort – is a necessity (I’d never heard of that word, “necessitous,” either). Nowhere in history is there an example of a functional society that did not have a government, and the societies that seem to have worked the best, and for the longest periods of time, tended toward having strong, rather than weak, governments. But even that isn’t an absolute, and some of the societies that we’re inclined (as a culture) to admire – Classical Greece and Rome, for example – had their dark sides, which we’re inclined to simply not mention. It’s difficult to combine “democracy” with the practice of slavery into a political philosophy that’s coherent.

    What I read into that Libertarian Party platform is essentially a return to the feudal, or perhaps to monarchy. Privatization on a scale as broad as what that platform advocates drops us back a thousand years or so, and simply means the wealthy – the 1% – still live a comfortable life, without any responsibility, or even acknowledgment, of their fellow citizens. Those fellow citizens might also pay no taxes, but lack the financial wherewithal to hire personal teachers for their children, build their own roads (or purchase transportation that makes safe roads unnecessary), or hire personal physicians, dentists, provide their own safe water, electrical power, etc., and on and on.

    Having now learned the new word, I’m inclined to agree with the notion provided: that “Necessitous men are not free men.” The second quote, that “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made,” also seems to me to be getting at something truthful. More than once, over the years, I’ve come across the notion that “Freedom begins with breakfast.” Most of the rhetoric that I encounter that seems philosophically opposed, not just to specific government regulations, which can admittedly sometimes be clumsy and awkward, but to the very idea that government ought to play some sort of role in the economic life of the society, stems from the delusional worldview of Ayn Rand. It’s hard for me to take criticism of government stemming from that dysfunctional intellectual position seriously.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2014 - 11:28 am.

    I wonder if any will dispute

    I wonder if any will argue that much of FDR’s “Second Bill Of Rights” doesn’t smack of the promises Communism makes.

    I digress, however.

    My observation is the sea change at hand as millions of “Millennials” watch, in horror, as their “Baby Boom” parents retire into a Social Security entitlement they paid a lifetime into, quickly shrinks to nothing.

    These young people, who are the bedrock upon which the Democrat party has built it’s success in the past decade are about to realize that FDR’s foray into Socialism relies, as do all socialistic economic programs, on a plan formulated by one Charles Ponzi. FDR merely proved that the bigger the pyramid, the longer the scam lasts…the end game is always the same.

    And Medicare, which might have otherwise lasted as long chronologically as SSI, has already been hollowed out substantially to subsidize Obamacare….there won’t be anything left for those Millennials to fret over.

    And that is a good thing.

    Given the weight taxpayers already bear to support non-contributors, and the unrelenting demand for more support from less supporters, I believe the 1st half of the 21st century is the time when either Americans abandon the failed tropes of the left completely or doom it to the inevitable conclusion.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/28/2014 - 12:01 pm.

      …inevitable conclusion…

      Oddly enough, it is Marxists that talk the most about “inevitable conclusions”.

      Let us not forget that a fairly large portion of the geezers that demand more for less money are of the Republican, or Libertarian bent. Aren’t they the ones screaming about “death panels” and Medicare cuts, while decrying any and all taxes? The right has had good fortune by whipsawing the gape-mouthed rubes between “taxes are too high” and “you’re going to lose your benefits”.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2014 - 01:54 pm.

        I’ve given due consideration

        …but I find myself unable to make any connection between more for less and geezers screaming about death panels, Neal. I know you didn’t intend to simply rant, so perhaps you can expand on your thinking.

        I can’t speak for Libertarians, but most Repubs I know (geezers and others) expect to get what they’ve paid for; no more, no less. The point being, in the case of both SSI and Medicare, we’re not going to get it.

        • Submitted by Jon Lord on 04/28/2014 - 03:12 pm.


          Well then…we make sure that ‘we’ and ‘they’ can get it. It’s as simple as that! We’re looking at a system that’s been deregulated since the ’80’s in favor of the corporations and the wealthy! The cost of living index has been changed to favor the corporations, prices go up, wages don’t. Jobs go overseas, they don’t come back. Automation limits job growth. So now the money going into social security and Medicare is smaller. So let’s change all that. So it means that the wealthy and corporations make less than they did if they pay a little more for labor so more can go into the social security and Medicare/Medicaid systems. I don’t think it would damage those poor wealthy folk all that much. They could even afford to put a little into the pot too! Right now if a person makes a quarter million a year they don’t pay in. (I think it’s less actually) The republican geezers and others you mention just maybe aren’t going to get it if they don’t realize all that.

        • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 04/28/2014 - 03:22 pm.

          For people interested in the

          relationship between what gets put in to Social Security and Medicare, and what they get from it, I highly recommend the article:

          Medicare and Social Security: What you paid compared with what you get

          I’ve also provided a link further on in the comments section to a piece on the actual financial basis of Social Security and the unlikelihood of it “running out of money.”

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/28/2014 - 03:39 pm.

            Yet, when republicans suggest making social security

            voluntary, that if a person was allowed to invest those funds in private investment vehicles, they could have a fund worth a million dollars or more upon retirement, the democrats refuse to consider it.

            The sweet irony, of course, is that old conservatives, like myself, will receive monthly social security benefits that they don’t even need, money to be blown at the casino, and the young liberals of today will not receive any such payments when they reach the same age because of how the system was mismanaged by their parents’ generation.

            Oh well.

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/29/2014 - 10:01 am.

              The employee social security rate is 6.2% of income.

              In order to have a private retirement account worth a million dollars, a typical individual would have to save $ 100 dollars a week.

              So a simple math problem–at what income level is a 6.2% chunk worth $ 100 ?

              $ 1600 /week or $ 83,000.00 year.

              Which happens to be the 94th percentile of individual income.

              Once again, a fine solution for the people in the top 6% of income.

              For the rest, you lose!!

            • Submitted by Jon Lord on 04/29/2014 - 02:31 pm.

              Hey, here’s an idea

              If you can live without taking your social security checks every month then don’t do it. It’s sweet irony all right, that you would actually keep that money when you know you don’t need it. Then you complain that social security will run out of money…not because of those who need social security but because of old conservatives like you who could simply let it help others in the future without you feeling any pain by not taking it.

              Where’s the greed!…oh well.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/28/2014 - 11:21 am.

    Incoherent concept

    This contemporary Republican concept of “freedom” is primarily drawn Libertarian/Ayn Rand i.e. Liberandian pseudo philosophy. It’s ultimately incoherent because it only imagines one kind of “free” person who thinks, believes, and maybe even looks like a Liberandian. The entire enterprise ends up promoting intolerance under the guise of liberty. Inevitably the impulse is to dictate the conditions of “liberty” and restrict individual differences rather than accommodate individual differences. There’s no ability to think in terms of community assets or well being.

  6. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 04/28/2014 - 12:13 pm.

    I pledge allegiance

    “…with liberty and justice for all.”

    Whenever liberty is mentioned, it seems that its pair in our pledge gets forgotten. Very little that I hear from the Koch brothers, their various campaign machines and surrogates, and their many Republican officeholder friends, ever acknowledges the role of and need for justice in our lives, our nation, or even our pledge.

    Strange, that.

    In fact you can’t really square the idea of abolishing the EPA if you actually value justice. The big polluters (like the Koch’s refinery just south of our metro) would have a field day of unjustly dumping “whatever the market would bear” into our air, soil and water, were there no EPA or state PCA. Liberty! but without justice.

    And without Social Security, there would be very little economic justice for the millions who work a lifetime only to see 401(k)s and pensions diminished or even vanish in the blinking of cold stockmarket dives.

    Liberty and justice should be no less divisible than our nation as a whole (Wisconsin and Texas modern secessionists notwithstanding). The libertarian and Tea wings of the right forget justice. And that’s an America I would not pledge to.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2014 - 02:00 pm.

      “And without Social Security, there would be very little economic justice for the millions who work a lifetime only to see 401(k)s and pensions diminished or even vanish in the blinking of cold stockmarket dives.”

      Interesting. So do you agree that those of us that will live long enough to see the bottom of the SSI well run dry will have been served an injustice by FDR, or do you dispute the fact that the end is in sight?

      Oddly enough, the one entity referred to in your observation that will be held blameless is the stock market since every 401k prospectus contains a warning that, unlike the one the federal government has made re: SSI, there are no guarantees in the market.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 04/28/2014 - 09:12 pm.

        You seem to misunderstand how Social Security works, Mr. Swift

        Please see:

        Social Security Will Never Run Out For As Long As You’re Alive

        “Here’s the critical misconception that people have: They think of Social Security as a fund that will one day run out, at which point the payments will cease. This is wrong. Social Security is a government insurance program that for accounting purposes pretends to operate as a fund.”

        “But that fund is an accounting trick, and the amount of money that exists in the fund is irrelevant to whether it will keep getting paid out.”

        “If the fund goes bankrupt in 2035 or whenever, then your Social Security check will just come out of general revenue/expenditures. No big deal. Nothing changes.”

      • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 04/28/2014 - 06:35 pm.

        SSI is not the problem

        Indeed I do dispute that Social Security will “run dry.” Social Security is an income transfer via taxation. Its survival or failure is entirely a matter of political will – of the people, or of the 1% is not resolved yet, but I do not subscribe to the idea that it will “go bankrupt.”
        We have, as a country, faced and fixed many issues. I worry that our will is weak, and that our system is becoming dangerously corrupted by decisions to let the rich very nearly purchase their politicians.
        But that does not mean social security will fail. Only that it might, if we fail as organized citizens to act for the common good.

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/28/2014 - 12:46 pm.

    My thanks

    To Mr. Swift for providing us with such timely illustrations of the lack of understanding of socialism that’s so often evident on the political right wing, not to mention his apparent enthusiasm for throwing under the bus fellow-citizens less fortunate than he has been.

    • Submitted by Richard Schulze on 04/28/2014 - 01:56 pm.

      FDR and most politicians, particularly Democrats, have fought to keep Social Security a universal benefit, rather than a means-tested anti-poverty program. If you cap benefits to the wealthy (but not their contributions), I guarantee you that the cap on benefits will further decrease (if only in real terms) in the future. I favor that, but a lot of middle class Americans don’t. I think the primary value of Social Security is as a minimum income to prevent poverty amongst the elderly. If we really want to fix Social Security, make the current minimum payout the set rate for all Americans. We’ve got other, more important things to spend money on than subsidizing the elderly middle class.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2014 - 03:14 pm.

      Ray, I’ve read the glossy Socialist advertisements. I’m referring to the teeny-tiny, small print where it says “when the supply of other people’s money runs out, everyone will be less fortunate than they had been”.

      • Submitted by Jon Lord on 04/29/2014 - 02:46 pm.


        You are more than willing to throw us under the bus then!

        In reality, there will be no time when the supply of other people’s money runs out if one counts the wealthiest of the wealthy as ‘the other people’. Unless one counts a major earth shattering catastrophe that will put our population at a level so small it’s at risk of dying out from a lack of genetic material. Or unless the wealthiest horde it to the point they won’t circulate it.

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 04/28/2014 - 01:16 pm.

    How the left has changed the meaning of compassion

    Compassion is viewed by the left as more government programs, taxes, handouts, control, regulation, and bureaucracy.

    We have now raised several generations who are conditioned to look to the government to provide their basic “wants.” There are so dependent of Government that any reduction, modification, and efficiency proposed for these programs is labeled as an attack on the receipts of these programs.

    Big government advocates and recipients have also established (bought?) a voter block that will further perpetuate the ruling class and the big government establishment. The only “new ideas” that are offered by the big government establishment types are ideas that just further perpetuate big government in the name of compassion.

    I “want” a cell phone – and I am sure that Obama has a program for me to receive one. – Obama phone.

    I “want” a free college education. It is a right! And big government will forgive my college debt if I go to work for the government in order to further perpetuate big government.

    Who pays for these programs? The taxpayers pay. It is troubling that fewer and fewer Americans pay federal income taxes and the left is bent to take more and more money from taxpayers to provide for the “wants” of those who do not pay taxes.

    That is not freedom. That is not compassion. It is developing into tyranny.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 04/28/2014 - 01:53 pm.

      “the only difference between compassionate conservatism

      and conservatism is that under compassionate conservatism they tell you they’re not going to help you but they’re really sorry about it.”

      Tony Blair

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/28/2014 - 02:02 pm.


      So your examples of “tyranny” are a Reagan adminstration program and something that hasn’t happened. Simply classic. Better example to the opposite side might be how, in the absence of government you get to access this forum to express your opinion. After all in Koch world your internet access would already be controlled by one conglomerate, which I suspect would not care to have an entity like Minnpost, (that might not toe the company line) being broadcast over its network. Competition you say? Let me know when a startup is able to foot the bill for an entirely new internet infrastructure, not to mention the new infrastructure for the power to run it (did I forget to mention that our friendly conglomerate also bought up the power grid, water supply, and transportation systems too?) Conservatives just never seem to understand the implications of their ideology, as if the bad outcomes will just magically never appear, or that they will only happen to someone else. The world tried feudalism already, it sucked, and it wouldn’t be any better this time around.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/28/2014 - 03:52 pm.

      Compassion is not as you state “… viewed by the left as more government programs, taxes, handouts, control, regulation, and bureaucracy.” Compassion is making sure all citizens have access to certain basic services, such as health care, a small retirement fund, education, and an equitable court system. You are simply building up a straw man to try and paint the opposition as a bunch of idiots who simply want to talk all your money away for their own nefarious gains.

      The reality is they’re people just like you who are looking for solutions to some of society’s worst problems. Do you know why we have Social Security in the first place? Because the country and the world went through the Great Depression for twelve years and the social structures we had in place at the time couldn’t handle it. Millions were without jobs and the elderly who worked hard their entire lives saw their savings wiped out, their relatives couldn’t take them in, churches were overwhelmed, and they were left without any resources to help out.

      Social Security isn’t designed to make someone wealthy in retirement, but to give them a couple of dollars to live on so they don’t starve to death.

      That’s the freedom of the program: freedom from starvation.

  9. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/28/2014 - 01:55 pm.

    FDR was wrong

    of course. If someone else has to pay for it, it’s not a “right.”

    • Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 04/29/2014 - 01:58 pm.

      On the contrary.

      Unless somebody else guarantees it, it cannot be a right.

      For example, I have no effective right to life unless others consent to let me live. You have no right to life unless I consent to let you live.

      It is no different with any other right. FDR was correct.

  10. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/28/2014 - 02:29 pm.

    Freedom from the tyranny of the majority

    appears to be what Libertarians seek. They might best be seen as the intellectual descendants of Alexis de Tocqueville:

    “If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach? Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with their strength. For my own part, I cannot believe it; the power to do everything, which I should refuse to one of my equals, I will never grant to any number of them.”

    Alexis de Tocqueville, “Tyranny of the Majority,” Chapter XV, Book 1, Democracy in America

    This tyranny is inherent in our form of government, however, and will be until something better comes along.

    As for “freedom” and its meaning, the one thing we can know with any certainty about “freedom” and the Founders’ intent is that they designed a system which conferred broad powers on government, subject to specific limitations, and gave the people the power to expand or constrict those powers by Constitutional amendment. We’ve done both over time. Again, the tyrant majority has spoken.

    I find it curious that one of today’s great complaints is taxation. The amount of taxes we pay is directly related to how much the tyrant majority decides to spend and on what. We’ve never had “freedom from taxation” and never will. The irony, for those who don’t understand this, is that we not only have been subject to taxation since day one, we actually approved its expansion over 100 years ago.

  11. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/28/2014 - 02:59 pm.

    The cult of libertarianism

    Eric Black places his finger on what seems to me to be the most important widening fault line in American politics: The struggle between pragmatists whose primary allegiance is to advancing human well-being and environmental sustainability, and those who think that the only political task is to advance a rigid, historically contingent, simplistic, black and white understanding of what they call “freedom.”

    The latter worldview has more often than not struck me as obnoxiously simplistic, a magnet for those who desire a neat and tidy little worldview, free from unsettling ambiguities and the driving whip of continuous learning. Once you place the libertarian ring on your finger, you seem to be married for life.

    It’s a political philosophy that quickly gets you up to debating speed, illusory clarity, and self-congratulating pride. You stand for “freedom,” whereas all these other dupes exist in various states of dependency that you, by virtue of having discovered the guiding moral truths of history—selfishness and belief in radical metaphysical individualism—have now transcended by reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. You’re a self-made hero, standing at the prow of the ship of freedom that’s plowing through waves of slavish resistance to personal responsibility and independence. “Liberty!” you cry, as you look down contemptuously on those who think government has some significant role to play in ensuring the provision of rights and the goods of human flourishing.

    Black is right that the libertarian philosophy looks coherent, but I would submit that that obtains only at the surface level. Dig a tiny bit deeper under the white skin of many libertarian assertions and what previously looked like a “rational” and clear-headed political philosophy quickly coughs up internal tensions and contradictions, falsified beliefs, economic myths, an almost systematic abuse of language (“taxes are slavery” e.g.), and a moral harshness and obtuseness that seems designed by sociopaths.

    When an increasingly popular political philosophy thinks that “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health” or “The right to a good education” is immoral, as most libertarians do, you might want to consider how to better understand this Randian cult and how to counter it. To my mind the best resource on the web for this is:

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/28/2014 - 03:30 pm.

      It’s simple, really

      You either believe in freedom or you don’t.

      Conservatives and Libertarians aren’t anti-government, they’re pro-freedom. As constitutionalists they expect government to serve the function of protecting our constitutional rights. Office holders take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. Without a government to protect our rights, without laws to protect your property from theft, without courts to prosecute people who’ve violated your rights, for example, what’s the point of having a constitutional republic?

      Like most things, the Left exaggerates for effect. It’s also not “immoral” to demand a “right to a good education.” Where do people come up with that? It’s not a “right,” but no one I know would call you immoral for thinking it is. You’re simply a victim of the poor education your government has given you.

      • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/28/2014 - 04:39 pm.

        It may be simple to you…

        “You either believe in freedom or you don’t.”

        That’s precisely like saying you either believe in morality or you don’t, you believe in truth or you don’t, you believe in reason or you don’t, or you believe in healthy living or you don’t. The problem with such black and white statements is that there is no such thing as one true and correct-for-all-time notion of freedom or many other concepts—god, the best kind of relationship—any value around which there is legitimate agreement.

        “You’re either a good American or a bad one.”

        “You’re either straight or gay.”

        “You’re either a good person or a bad person.”

        With a little education one begins to distrust such lazy simplifications because, well, you can find too many contradictions to them, too many instances in which things are a little of one and the other, or, there are situations in which more than one right way might exist.

        Take freedom.

        Under most libertarian definitions of freedom, it is indeed considered immoral by many libertarians for the government to, for example, spend money on stopping a famine that may threaten the lives of millions of people. Why? Because many libertarians have convinced themselves that a hierarchy of values exists in which one of the worst offenses is taxation.

        Well, that is one view of freedom.

        In this view of freedom the individual’s right to be free from conditions of famine is discarded by the libertarian. The person facing starvation, in the libertarian view of the world, should and must face it alone, unless charity can help. If charity is insufficient, then too bad. It is more ethical for the person to starve than for the government to do anything to stop it. Most but not all libertarians I’ve encountered don’t find anything troubling about this viewpoint. (Objectivists—an extreme form of libertarianism—are often morally opposed to any charity.)

        But it’s not just cases of life or death where the libertarian view of freedom can lead to worse outcomes for people compared with a political system in which there is state involvement. Take the following expressions of freedom:

        The freedom to work in safe and healthy conditions.
        The freedom to not be exploited harshly by those with great wealth just in order to meet basic needs.
        The freedom to not live in polluted environments.
        The freedom to pursue one’s highest educational aspirations without incurring onerous and freedom-limiting student loan debt.

        Dennis’ view of the world rejects all these freedoms—freedoms most people would value if asked.

        Lastly, we shouldn’t fall into the thought-killing trap that Dennis and others on this discussion board have themselves fallen into—the misunderstanding that a) The highest value in every case is freedom, b) that freedom is always easily defined (rights claims often conflict—you can play your stereo, but not so loud it disturbs the peace), c) that there is general agreement on what freedom means.

        • Submitted by Jon Lord on 04/29/2014 - 03:32 pm.

          I agree

          A few years ago an acquaintance of mine was telling me about a feud between two neighbors. One was having their freedom abridged by the other I was told. So I asked what it was over. My acquaintance said his friend was being unfairly treated by the DNR because he was being forced to move his cattle and fence them in 50 yards back from the river so they couldn’t drink from the river anymore. I again asked why (although I could guess). He said the offending person who turned his friend into the DNR complained about the cow manure floating down river to where his children swam. And that it’s a clear cut case of the government interfering with his friend’s right to allow his cattle to use the river.

          I was a bit dumbfounded but after a pause of several minutes I posed a question to my acquaintance. I asked that if he had a place on the river where his kids swam and played in and a farmer upriver from him allowed his cattle to drop their manure in it to float downriver to where his kids were swimming, just what would he do? Again I was dumbfounded. He said he’d get the DNR to force the guy upriver to fence his cattle away from the river.

          I’d like to say something profound struck my acquaintance at this point, but it didn’t. It was like one-half of his brain didn’t hear the other half. I couldn’t get him to see the double-standard.

          • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 04/30/2014 - 09:49 am.

            I must be missing something.

            One landowner is polluting the river, the other is not. They’re hardly comparable at all.

            • Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/01/2014 - 07:55 am.

              Amazingly yes you are

              The one upriver is polluting the river. The one downriver is the one who is on the receiving end of that pollution and is the one who complains to the DNR about it.

              What kind of comparisons are you looking for? The one upriver thinks it’s his right to let his cattle wade in the river and his freedoms are abridged if he can’t. The one downriver believes it’s his right not to have his children swim in the river polluted by the farmer’s cattle upriver and his freedom is abridged because of the one upriver. Only one can be right.

              What you are missing is, which farmer do you side with? Who has the greater right to ‘freedom’ in this case? It really isn’t that complicated. One has to ‘give up their perceived right to their freedom’ in this case.

              My acquaintance sides with the landowner upriver because he doesn’t live downriver from him, but if he lived downriver, he’d do exactly what the landowner downriver did. And that was to get the DNR involved to have the farmer upriver stop polluting the river. Do you see the convolution in reasoning by my acquaintance? And the landowner upriver?

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 04/28/2014 - 03:44 pm.

    Just one little minor correction

    “…I can’t speak for Libertarians, but most Repubs I know (geezers and others) expect to get what they’ve paid for; no more, no less.”

    What most Repubs (and Dems, Libertarians, Independents, Innocent, Oblivious, etc.) will get from SSI and Medicare is far in excess of what they contributed. Most retirees get back from Social Security in 3 or 4 years the sum total of what they (and their employers) put into the system. After that, unless they’re independently wealthy, they’re living on someone else’s dime.

    And, of course, if all you expect to get back is what you’ve paid for, we can eliminate the “return” on a whole host of investment vehicles, from passbook savings (where the return comes close to being eliminated already) to T-Bills to real estate to whatever substance you want to buy “futures” in, be it oil, hog bellies, or chicken feed. I look forward to meeting the Republican who insists that charging interest on a loan is usury, and expecting to get back more than she’s put into a low-risk bond is simply greed.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2014 - 05:02 pm.

      “Most retirees get back from Social Security in 3 or 4 years the sum total of what they (and their employers) put into the system. ”

      Like all Ponzi schemes, that was true for the earliest “investors”. We’re reaching the bottom of the pyramid…or have reached it.

      “Social Security has reached another critical threshold: For the first time, a typical husband and wife retiring today can expect to collect less in benefits than it paid in payroll tax over the course of their life.”

      If you’re comparing SSI as an investment, I’d be remiss not to point out it’s an extremely poor vehicle.

      As for true investments, getting a positive rate of return certainly falls under the category of getting what you pay for, since an investment inherently implies a gain of some type. Expecting others to subsidize a loss falls short of the definition, and that is what the left is suggesting.

      • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 04/28/2014 - 08:57 pm.

        Social Security is not a Ponzi Scheme

        Once again a claim is being made here that is contrary to fact. A little research on the matter will lead to the conclusion that the title of this comment is correct.

        For example, from the Economist, a slightly conservative but respected publication on Finance

        “Social Security
        A monstrous truth”

        “NO PONZI scheme in the history of the world has ever lasted 75 years.”

        “Social Security is not a Ponzi scheme. The entire population of working Americans has already been subscribed to Social Security for decades, yet the system continues to pay out benefits on time. That is because the actuarial calculations underlying its revenues and benefits are sound.”

        Please read the entire article for more information.

        Mr. Swift’s disparaging and incorrect questioning of Social Security as an investment is also addressed:

        “If you wanted to call Social Security an investment, you would say it is a play on the proposition that America’s GDP will continue to grow over the long term. This is the safest play one can imagine making, which is why the returns are so modest. Like any investment, it could go bad. But if it goes bad, if the economy of the United States ceases to grow over the long term, it is inconceivable that any other investment large enough to feed a pension plan covering the entire working population could do better.”

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/01/2014 - 07:47 am.

          Details Matter

          What would you call a government program that taxes the well to do the highest premium and then to stay solvent pays them the lowest benefit? I am not sure if Ponzi is the correct term, however it sounds a lot like typical welfare.

          “Those costs are limited and, measured as a percentage of GDP, will flatten out. They can be absorbed through a modest, gradual increase in Social Security taxes and modest reductions in benefits for wealthier recipients.”

          By the way, the big problem isn’t SS Retirement… It is SS Disability and Medicare… The premiums paid in the past do not cover the planned benefits.

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 04/29/2014 - 09:46 am.

        Even Wall Street insiders

        Admit that Wall Street is rigged. “True investments” What a laugh.

  13. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 04/28/2014 - 04:13 pm.

    Social Security explained

    “If the “fund” goes bankrupt in 2035 or whenever, then your Social Security check will just come out of general revenue/expenditures. No big deal. Nothing changes.”

    It’s nice to have experts on hand to clarify these things for us.

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 04/28/2014 - 07:37 pm.

    The money you ‘paid into’ the system when you were working went to pay for your father’s generation. It’s gone. Your children’s taxes will pay for you. But there aren’t enough children, and your generation is living too long. That’s the problem for every one of these pension systems. They were fine as long as the workforce grew and life spans didn’t. Whoops.

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 04/29/2014 - 03:06 pm.


      The new generation is on par to be larger than the boomers. The work force grew and it is there, it’s just that jobs have gone overseas and those that are left for most don’t pay that well. Since the boomers first came into the world our population has doubled and will double again in half that time. Corporations are doing better than ever before, yet, most of their money comes from overseas, and is banked overseas. The wealthiest 1% are the wealthiest this country has ever seen.

      Pensions were supposed to be part of the stock markets, investments, not by the workers but by those who set those pensions up. So wall street must have dropped that ball, or the corporations did.

  15. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/28/2014 - 08:07 pm.

    A few thoughts

    It is interesting that the Koch brothers are now a favorite punching bag for everyone on the left. There are as many, if not more, wealthy billionaires and unions who favor the left and give very generously and I am not even talking about all Hollywood stars (I always wonder that those who deplore those greedy CEO’s , never say anything about movie and TV stars who earn much more than CEO’s and actually do not work that hard). So is the left trying to find an “enemy” just in time for elections?

    Now to that FDR quote “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” It is true but let’s analyze it a little bit. Obviously, America has been a free country since the Revolution but the government has not seriously started helping people until after the Johnson presidency. So obviously, people were not hungry enough for all those years to create the dictatorship (and life was tough then); somehow people managed on their own. Now people on the left, and especially people like Sen. Sanders want to make government responsible for giving people jobs and bread (and maybe circuses, too). And if that really happens, it will be up to the government to make people go hungry and thus prepare them for dictatorship. Look at Europe: as soon as the governments want to reduce benefits, people get unhappy and vote for either extreme right or extreme left. In other words, government can now manipulate people. Is this what we want?

    That libertarian party platform that Mr. Sanders is trying to present as current Koch brothers’ is probably as close to what they think as the Communist party platform is to Mr. Sanders’. I like some libertarian ideas but not these ones. Governments are necessary and libertarian ideology is not the same as anarchistic one. But one doesn’t need to be a libertarian to resist the government hand outs.

    • Submitted by Sarah Nagle on 04/29/2014 - 08:22 am.

      You forgot corporations

      “Many, if not more billionaires and unions who favor the left” – oh really? Can you provide numbers? And there are “many, if not more” corporations than unions – who do they give to, now that they are legally human?

  16. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/28/2014 - 09:43 pm.

    It’s kind of like “past lives”. Virtually everyone who claims to remeber a past life remembers themselves as a king, a prince, a knight, a member of nobility. No one recalls a life of servitude, struggles, unfulfilled ambitions, and want.

    So every libertarian envisions themself as the proud, solitary warrior– bravely making their own way across a level, infinite plain of opportunity unencumbered by laws, traditions, morals or responsibilities to others. They will find and make their own tools. They will cure their own illnesses. They will grow their own food. And they will make piles of money (probably bitcoins). Because they are sure they are the pinnacle of the makers, not the takers.

    But like the past, it will be more complicated than that–as history has repeatedly shown, there are far more taken than takers. And that featureless plain of opportunity does not exist.

  17. Submitted by Joe Musich on 04/28/2014 - 10:27 pm.

    So tell …

    me again what is wrong with expecting a government to work to these ends …

    These economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are:
    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
    The right of every family to a decent home;
    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
    The right to a good education.


    I have no dispute with anyone expecting these as Americans or citizens on any nation.. I am disgusted by the idea some would abandon these aspirations for all. This is a list of what everyone should be able to expect. It is a clarifying statement. You cannot eat freedom. These rights provide sustenance, food for the body and soul. Yet some want a world like the opening scenes from 2001 A Space Odessey where protomen beat each other to death. This thinking is wrong. When thought about most people can actually become ill in it’s lonely darkness. The nightmarish hell of the right where everyone pays their dues for daily survival to those with power. Or they contrive to dethrone and overpower to their own ends thereby beginning the cycle anew. The circle game of self-fulfilling destruction. No ! Don’t want no right wing thinking around me.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/29/2014 - 07:49 am.

      How and Who Pays

      I don’t think anyone is against the above. The question is how it is accomplished and who pays?

      Also, what is the responsibility that comes with this freedom? The USA provides free K-12 education and yet many people are failing to pass even the basic academic standards. How much does society owe someone who isn’t actively participating in their own development and growth?

      • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/29/2014 - 12:49 pm.

        How do we define ethical seriousness?

        “I don’t think anyone is against the above.”

        How do we define “against”? Generally, how can we tell if someone actually believes in certain values or not?

        It’s easy to say that one is in agreement with something, but it’s another thing to be willing to make a commitment to it at some personal cost. After all, the human propensity is to imagine itself possessed of the best qualities—charitableness, compassion, reason, etc. If one is for critical thinking, let’s say, but has seldom or never committed any personal investment in improving one’s thinking, then how accurate or true is it to say that you actually believe in or value critical thinking?

        Take the case of the tobacco executive who goes to church on Sunday and presents himself as a man of “serious moral intent,” but the rest of the week is trying to get young people hooked on his health-damaging products. In a superficial sense he is, by his own admission, a man of “serious moral intent.” But in practice this self-designation is thrown into serious question.

        One can apply a similar analysis to those who say they support, for example, “the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.”

        First, let me say that I agree with you that there is legitimate room for debate about how and who pays for such rights.

        However, we sometimes or even often find what you might call ‘the force of circumstances,’ where unless we do X (with X defined as, for instance, “the minimum amount of money necessary to achieve some result like “the right to adequate medical care…”) then we simply don’t achieve “adequate medical care…” for everyone. In other words, it may turn out after much research we discover that only A will solve a problem and B won’t.

        To continue to insist on B even though it won’t solve a problem may indicate that one isn’t serious about solving the problem in the first place, that’s one’s stated commitment to “adequate medical care” isn’t really a serious ethical stance, but more of a cover story for something else—internal confusion as to one’s actual values, self-deceit, a desire to make oneself look good to other people, etc.

        However, to continue to insist on B might also reflect a serious disagreement in priorities. One might hold that having a lower tax rate is more important than the human right to health. This view is certainly common among libertarians and conservatives.

        Nevertheless, I still think that to say that one is in favor “the right to adequate medical care…” but unwilling to actually agree to the steps *necessary* to achieve it, calls into question whether one is actually serious about valuing “the right to adequate medical care.” There are very few things more important than one’s health. If you don’t have health, you may not be able to exercise other freedoms and capabilities one has.

        Does your value system involve a free lunch? (I’m addressing people generally, not you specifically, John.) Are you actually willing to incur the necessary cost to yourself that would make this value something more than self-congratulatory rhetoric?

        If a person says that everyone should be treated with respect, but then makes racist comments about others, can we take them at their word about treating everyone with respect? If a person says that they value “the right to adequate medical care…”, and it turns out that government support is required to ensure everyone receives adequate medical care, but this person refuses to support politicians and policies that would actualize that right, can we take that personal statement of commitment to “the right to adequate medical care…” seriously?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/30/2014 - 09:07 am.


          “and it turns out that government support is required to ensure everyone receives adequate medical care”

          I think we have a paradigm issue occurring. You apparently believe that “government support” is the only way to resolve the issue. (ie have middle class and wealthy pay for it)

          I believe the choices of the American citizens have helped create the problem, and the choices of the American people can help resolve the issue.

          I have no desire to gut the social safety net, however I have no interest in continuing to grow it into a comfortable hammock.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/30/2014 - 11:27 am.

            Still awash in flawed assumptions…

            John writes:

            “You apparently believe that “government support” is the only way to resolve the issue. (ie have middle class and wealthy pay for it)”

            The truth is that everyone including the poor pays for government and government services. Furthermore, EVERYONE including the wealthy benefits from government and government services, in fact one can make a convincing argument that the wealthy benefit the most. This idea that the wealthy pay for government someone else uses is simply class unconsciousness and stereotyping pretending to be economic wisdom. In this case, the notion that the poor benefit more from health care than the wealthy or anyone else for that matter, is simply absurd. And the notion that the wealthy pay all the costs for their own healthcare is likewise ridiculous. Sure, you may not have insurance pay for you heart valve replacement, but you didn’t pay for all the research and development that makes your heart valve replacement possible in the first place. The middle class and the poor paid for that as much as anyone else.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/01/2014 - 07:57 am.

              Offsetting Costs/Benefits

              If someone pays in $3,000/year in cash and gets back $15,000/year in cash / insurance benefits. To me they are not paying, they are a net recipient.

              If someone pays in $30,000/year gets $0/year in cash / insurance benefits. To me they they are paying.

              The reality is that both groups have and use the roads, fire houses, police, schools, etc however one of them is paying for them.

              This is not wrong since only those with money can pay. But to deny it is incorrect.

              As for heart valves, same logic applies. If you get free health care, you are not paying.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/01/2014 - 08:47 am.

                The magic of repetition

                “The reality is that both groups have and use the roads, fire houses, police, schools, etc however one of them is paying for them.”

                Repeating a flawed assumption does not convert it into a valid assumption John. How much would all the contracts the wealthy rely on be worth absent the impartial and independent court systems that make those contracts enforceable? Or do you suppose that our court system is NOT a government institution? Or do you supposed that criminal prosecution is the ONLY our court system does? The FACT is that the wealthy get a far better return for their tax dollars than anyone else, and they use the government just as much if not more than anyone else. Ziggy Wilf is getting a billion dollars in return for his $400 million in the stadium, and that’s before a single game is played. Your flawed reasoning is essentially based on a limited understanding of exactly what your government really does and how. In other words, you’re working from a stereotype of government rather than the reality of government. This is why budgets always collapse into financial crises whenever you guys get into power.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/01/2014 - 01:13 pm.

                  You are Right

                  Ziggy is getting a cash benefit from the government, just like many poor people do. So I guess we could take all of the taxes he and his business have paid / will pay and subtract from it some portion of annualized cash benefit they are receiving. Then we would know if they are a net supporter or receiver.

                  Of course MN is getting a stadium and keeping the Vikings in the state. That is the value that the tax payers are buying and not a “gift to Ziggy”. They didn’t just give the money to Ziggy out of the kindness of their heart, like we do for the poor.

                  Both the poor and the rich use the court system, however only one of them pays for it.

                  As I said, this is not a bad thing. However it is worth remembering and appreciating.

          • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/30/2014 - 12:44 pm.

            Safety Net

            A couple of bucks for food stamps and basic health care services for all can hardly be considered a “comfortable hammock.” People are simply working to set a minimum floor of services not just for the poor, but for the middle class too. The rich are taken care of as they can go anywhere in the world to get their hospital care, but the rest of us are stuck with what we can get locally. And if they can’t afford it, then it’s off to the emergency room when the issue gets too large to self medicate.

          • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/30/2014 - 02:06 pm.

            A paradigm issue? Perhaps

            No, I don’t necessarily believe that government is the only way to solve the problem. I’m very pragmatic in my politics. And if there were a market solution for medical insurance that was more efficient than a government one, I would certainly consider it But there is no evidence I’ve seen for the claim that the market is the best mechanism for keeping healthcare costs down. In fact, there appears to be much counterevidence against this claim.

            You use a couple of key phrases that I find interesting.

            First, you specify the “middle class and wealthy” as the payers. What did you intend by this, other than to state an elementary truism? The middle classes and wealth everywhere pay more in taxes than, let’s say, by way of what I assume was your implied contrast, the poor. What is your point?

            Of course, not everyone will be able to pay into a health care system, nor should some people be expected to like retirees, or the disabled who can’t work, or the unemployed, or children, or even in some cases the working poor. I assume this is not controversial.

            Next you write, vaguely, “I believe the choices of the American citizens have helped create the problem, and the choices of the American people can help resolve the issue.” What exactly do you mean by this?

            Last, you write, “…I have no interest in continuing to grow it into a comfortable hammock.” But there’s no proposal on record to do this. Where do you get this suspicion? I assume you’re not falling into the fallacy of thinking that expanding medical insurance coverage is synonymous with some kind of license for anti-work. It only means they have…medical coverage, whereas before they didn’t.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/30/2014 - 03:20 pm.

              The Soap Box

              Thank you for asking.

              I have a belief that is unpopular around here. I believe that the greed and materialism of the American consumers contributed about the same or slightly more than any “business or wealthy” person did to our current wealth gap and low incomes. All Americans who happily and blissfully purchase high content foreign services and products sent their money overseas instead of employing Americans, generating additional taxes, keeping wages high, supporting unions, etc. Also, I believe the acceptance and willingness to keep illegal immigrants in the USA is also undercutting the American workers, the Unions, higher wages, etc.

              Of course this isn’t too popular with the folks that want to blame the rich/businesses, that want to give border jumpers citizenship, are happy driving or using their high foreign content products, or looking in the mirror.

              Imagine how fast things would change if we just said no to products developed and/or built overseas when possible. (ie boycott) Low USA content firms would be scrambling to build in and hire Americans. Of course we Americans will have to pay a bit more to support those higher wages we all want.

              My understanding is that Medicare and MN Care were in place before ACA. Meaning the true poor already had healthcare. What am I missing here?

              I am actually going to enjoy ACA in about 7 years. I am going to retire early, keep my income low and take advantage of that ACA tax credit… Of course after paying for it for 8 years, maybe I deserve some time on the dole.

              • Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/01/2014 - 08:22 am.

                convoluted reasoning

                assumes that consumers buy from ‘foreign companies’ rather than American companies, ignoring the fact that most of the those ‘foreign companies’ are owned by American Interests and were in fact built by American money. They do it because of the ‘cheap unregulated labor’.

                If you check on who employs most ‘illegal immigrants’ you’ll find it’s generally companies (including farms) owned by people who consider themselves conservatives and they do it because it’s ‘cheap unregulated labor’. Three words the conservatives embrace wholeheartedly.

                What you are missing from MN Care is the cost. It wasn’t and isn’t cheap or free. Medicare had a cutoff line where you had to prove you were below the poverty line. Above the poverty line poor, the minimum wage earner, couldn’t afford MN Care.

                Good for you John. That opens up a job for someone else. As long as you don’t have a lot in savings you can do that. If you want to live below the poverty line, it’s certainly your right. I’m sure you’ll enjoy living in poverty. You can get a free phone with limited texting and calling only. No data minutes so you won’t get to upload or download or play games on it. But think of the freedom you’ll have when you can’t buy anything! You’ll love it.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/01/2014 - 01:24 pm.

                  Check the tag, stamp or label… It tells you where the majority of the manufacturing content came from. If it doesn’t say Made in America, you know you are supporting foreign labor instead of American Labor.

                  For cars check here

                  Buying from Apple, Motorola, GM, Ford, GE, etc or one of their foreign subsidiaries is almost always better than from a foreign based firm. Their profits and many of their corporate costs find their way into the American economy and tax revenues.

                  As for illegal immigrants, both the Liberals and Conservatives support keeping them here, just for different reasons. However, either way it is bad for American workers, unions and wages.

                  • Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/01/2014 - 06:04 pm.

                    I buy American

                    When there are American products to buy. But you see…even if one buys a product made in China, Malaysia or India, it’s an American funded product in most cases. American companies either own the companies outright or invested the money to get it off the ground and are making money on the products sold here in America, and on the excessively cheap labor. It’s no secret.

                    You simply avoid addressing that. If it’s not made on American soil you pretend it’s not an American product made for American interests. You know that. You’ve spoken about it before, about the jobs moving overseas, but then you argue that if it doesn’t have an American label then it’s not made by an American funded company. One of last major holdouts among Made in America products was Redwing Shoes and now even they have moved a majority of their manufacturing overseas…they still are a company that exists here in Minnesota, but they moved most of their operations overseas.

                    Free trade agreements make it possible for American companies overseas to ship their product here at a price much lower than if there is no free trade agreement. They can also ship material overseas to be used by American companies ‘overseas’ at a lower price. Foreign interests can also ship their products here more cheaply. The foundry’s for making steel? American owned and overseas.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/02/2014 - 09:00 am.

                      I agree

                      I am happy you Buy American when you can. To help American workers the priorities should be:
                      1. Buy “Made in America” product from American company
                      2. Buy “Made Elsewhere” product from American company
                      3. Buy “Made in America” product from Foreign company
                      4. Buy “Made Elsewhere” product from Foreign company

                      Imagine how quickly things would change if the American consumers who care about American workers followed these, and were willing to pay somewhat more to for those higher American wages…

                      There would be a lot less product from these companies in our society. (ie BMW, Mercedes, VW, Audi, Volvo, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, LG, Sony, Lenovo, Toyota, Honda, Toshiba, etc) Or they would drastically increase their “Made in America” capacity…

                    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/03/2014 - 12:47 pm.


                      People do buy from that list of 4, but most of it is pretty cheap stuff. Including the 1. Most products today with the tag “Made in America” is just assembled in America. Take computers. I buy from An American Company who puts their name on the product. But, if you check the hard drive, power unit, etc, they aren’t made here. The computers are assembled here by people paid low minimum wages, but they aren’t ‘made’ here by American labor.

                      Let’s build the hard drives and etc here, from the ground up! Bring the jobs back here where they can built for decent wages. We currently are not a manufacturing Nation.

                      GE light bulbs! Made in China but for GE and sold by GE. This is an American company. Most people buy GE light bulbs. American brand shoes are mostly made by the Chinese. Our clothing comes from overseas. Most of us have to buy them. The list is long so American’s do buy American according to your list of 4.

                      Many foreign Automobile companies are partially owed by American companies by the way.
                      Many foreign companies make cars on American soil. Farm equipment too. etc. Why? Because labor is cheaper here now. The reason why? Because American companies don’t make things on American soil leaving a huge underpaid labor force here. Most foreign companies who hire here also tend to pay a little better than most American companies. The English have a liking for Ford products. China likes our cars no matter the brand. The ‘free trade’ here doesn’t help the American people, just American corporations.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/03/2014 - 11:35 pm.


                      These folks make cars easy for you to compare. They include both manufacture and corporate costs.

                      By the way Ford is out of Volvo, Jaguar and Mazda. And GM is out of Saab… What other partnerships were you thinking of?

                      Regarding bulbs and computers, as I said start at 1 and work to 4… Since almost all electronics are manufactured over seas, at least you can support all those corporate employees at the USA company. Please remember that those corporate US based employees pay taxes that support the government spending you desire. The corporate offices of Lenova are in China, along with their manufacturing.

                      Also, intellectual property and branding matter. Apple has 50,000+ USA employees. And they indirectly create jobs for another 250,000 Americans. That is a lot of jobs and American tax dollars. Plus a US company owns the technology, which is where the real money is…

                      Again it is the consumers choice… Apple or Samsung… Mostly America or mostly S Korea.

                    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/05/2014 - 09:08 am.

                      You are missing something

                      There are fewer and fewer American jobs. Especially those that pay more than the minimum. That creates a problem. That problem is in spending. Once the rent is paid and food is covered and transportation accounted for, there’s not much left. Have you ever heard the lyrics “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”? (Glen Campbell) Nothing left to spend! A choice has to be made when a person is trying to get by on minimum wage. They might have the freedom to make a choice but that choice is severely limited. They have the choice of cheap or cheaper, or nothing.

                      If you are talking about people making a hundred thousand or more a year I agree they should spend their money on the best American products they can. I see quite a number of Jaguar’s running around the neighborhood. Who’s buying those? Shame on them. Ford still sells Mazda. Shame on them too.

                      Most companies buy Lenova. I assume because it’s cheaper? I don’t understand why ‘they’ wouldn’t buy Apple? A company who has their manufacturing overseas may keep a small corporate workforce here in American but the majority of their employees are ‘overseas’. Think of the taxes we lose to other countries! Think of the tax income lost due to low wages! We lose not only the tax revenue, but also the economic benefit of sales. It’s demand and supply in action!

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/05/2014 - 10:41 am.

                      My Point Exactly

                      Now Conservatives openly support the “buy best value no matter what” philosophy. They are unapologetic about it.

                      It is the Liberals who say we need to support Unions and American employees, yet many of them ship their money over seas. I find it inconsistent.

  18. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/29/2014 - 08:55 am.


    It seems there are an awful lot of misconceptions about libertarians. If you’re making up some caricature of a wilderness loner that wants to live outside of society then you’re pretty wide of the mark. It’s a similar mistake to one where someone mistakes a liberal for a Leninist revolutionary. If you’d reject that as being wildly simplistic, then you should take a step back and try to figure out what libertarians really want.
    One good step is to simply read what libertarians talk about. A good place to start is the group blog at Reason:
    Warning, it may be jarring to left wing pieties. (And of course Reason doesn’t represent all libertarians, though they seem to be the most popular at this time.) You’ll disagree with some of it (as do I), but at least you’ll know what you’re talking about.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/29/2014 - 10:08 am.

      I don’t think there is a caricature here

      The thrust of the piece by Sanders, (mentioned in the piece) was not to paint a wild, crazy, portrait of Libertarianism. It was simply to use the platform listed during Koch’s candidacy to accurately depict the sort of world those of that mindset would like to see. If that spotlight highlights the more extreme positions taken, so be it. If the Libertarian mindset were only held by a few powerless outsiders it would be one thing, (much less destructive for one) but its being espoused by individuals with the largesse, and the will, to make it happen. This is quite easily illustrates by the monstrous sums out into the electoral process by said individuals and the groups they create. The problem those of us on the left see is the lack of understanding by those who simply would not benefit from the ideology they choose to support. All this leads to is a dystopian future, of a massive servant class, and a small cadre of masters. Why folks fail to learn the lessens of history, why they seem to think things will be different THIS time is mind boggling.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/29/2014 - 01:35 pm.

        That is What I was Thinking

        “Why folks fail to learn the lessens of history, why they seem to think things will be different THIS time is mind boggling.”

        That is what I was thinking about the folks who strive to pursue the Socialist and or Social Democracy paths.

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/30/2014 - 07:33 am.

          Social Democracy

          You’re not looking very hard at our society if you think social democracy is a failure. Our socialized roads, police force, fire departments seem to be working very well, just to name a few items.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/30/2014 - 10:09 am.

            Matter of Degree

            Conservatives want a government that spends 25% to 33% of the country’s GDP. Currently we are at ~39%.

            Liberals seem to want a government that spends 50 to 60% of the country’s GDP. Similar to other Social Democracies like Northern Europe.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 04/29/2014 - 10:37 am.

      Those who claim the Libertarian platform in the public discourse

      are absolutists. Indeed, the MinnPost commenter who most incessantly blows the clarion of “Freedom” on these pages has stated unambiguously that a law should only bind those who agree to be bound by it. That is the definition of anarchy.

      Please tell me this: Is there a Libertarian element that recognizes the threat to freedom of concentrated private wealth and power, unconstrained by collective authority? And is there a Libertarian element that defines “freedom” not as an absolute, but as what is most achievable and available to all in a complex society of limited resources and competing claims? And if your answer to both is yes, then what distinguishes this form of Libertarianism from progressivism?

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/29/2014 - 01:16 pm.

        Natural law and natural rights

        Most libertarians have natural law as the basis of their belief system and within natural law there are three natural rights as defined by the Founding Fathers:

        1. Life: everyone is entitled to live once they are created.
        2. Liberty: everyone is entitled to do anything they want to so long as it doesn’t conflict with the first right.
        3. Estate: everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn’t conflict with the first two rights. (This was the original version in the declaration and was changed later to “pursuit of happiness.”

        So to answer your question, no, there is no justifiable constraint on the amount of “private wealth and power” that a government of a free society has any authority to impose. In fact, it’s the fundamental role of government is to make laws that protect these three natural rights and if a government does not properly protect these rights, it can be overthrown.

        The progressives’ assumption is that you are not a free man but a man who’s life, liberty and pursuit of property are subject to the collective’s ultimate authority.

        • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 04/29/2014 - 02:41 pm.

          Are you implying…

          that the right to Estate is the same as the right to the Pursuit of Happiness? That seems like an odd translation, but If it isn’t the same, why choose something that was not in fact part of our founding document?

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/29/2014 - 06:33 pm.

            Jefferson changed it

            John Locke argued in his Two Treatises of Government that political society existed for the sake of protecting “property”, which he defined as a person’s “life, liberty, and estate.”

            When Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he replaced “estate” with “the pursuit of happiness.”

            • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 04/30/2014 - 09:53 am.


              So, it Pursuit of Happiness, not Estate.

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/30/2014 - 12:47 pm.

              Caring only for the liberty of English capitalists…

              Perhaps you might ponder Jefferson’s substitution. Why would “happiness” be considered more accurate than “estate”. One might think Jefferson had something more in mind for America.

              What else did Lock also propose in relation to “property rights”?


              Detractors note that (in 1671) he was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal African Company. In addition, he participated in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina while Shaftesbury’s secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. For example, Martin Cohen notes that Locke, as a secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673–4) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696–1700), was in fact, “one of just half a dozen men who created and supervised both the colonies and their iniquitous systems of servitude”.[29] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having been intended to justify the displacement of the Native Americans.[30][31] Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy and racism, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists.[32]

              (end quote)

              I would think that Jefferson’s intent was far different than Locke.

              And America is better for that.

            • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/01/2014 - 08:11 am.

              Dennis, you are wrong

              If you care to read Locke’s “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” he does use the phrase “pursuit of happiness” which is not the same as “property”.

              You may think “pursuit of happiness” is equivalent to “property” but it never was to Locke.

              Two entirely different concepts.


              “The necessity of pursuing happiness [is] the foundation of liberty. As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will to any particular action…” (Locke,1894, p. 348)

              (end quote)

              The essay is a free ebook on Google books.


              Locke indicates that the pursuit of happiness is the foundation of liberty since it frees us from attachment to any particular desire we might have at a given moment. So, for example, although my body might present me with a strong urge to indulge in that chocolate brownie, my reason knows that ultimately the brownie is not in my best interest. Why not? Because it will not lead to my “true and solid” happiness which indicates the overall quality or satisfaction with life. If we go back to Locke, then, we see that the “pursuit of happiness” as envisaged by him and by Jefferson was not merely the pursuit of pleasure, property, or self-interest (although it does include all of these). It is also the freedom to be able to make decisions that results in the best life possible for a human being, which includes intellectual and moral effort. We would all do well to keep this in mind when we begin to discuss the “American” concept of happiness.


              (end quote)

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/29/2014 - 02:47 pm.


          Were I to con you out of all your possessions, yet leave you alive and otherwise unharmed I would be a-ok within that framework. Simply an exercise of my superior intellect “earning” your possessions through your voluntary (although misdirected) action. No wonder you like wall street so much.

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/29/2014 - 02:51 pm.


          As we’re being specific here, the only right is to life itself, how shall we treat a severe beating? As it reads it would seem I am within my rights (as you lay them out) to savagely beat whomever I choose, so long as I don’t take a life. Yep, that seems logical and very “natural”.

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/29/2014 - 06:49 pm.

            The fact that there are laws

            that protect people from getting beat up is irrelevant to your right to life. Assault is an offense that legislatures have chosen to make illegal, which in their view is their “duty” to protect you from any and all harm, regardless of your constitutional or natural rights.

            The same could be said of fraud, which you mention in your other comment, or protecting you from incandescent light bulbs, or Obamacare, which protects you from harm by requiring you to buy over-priced health insurance.

            So as we see, “big government” is the result of mission creep from natural law.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/29/2014 - 10:12 pm.

              So in other words

              Yes, within your definition of “natural law” I am fully within my rights to carry those actions out. I said nothing about government, but its instructive that you recognize the need for restriction upon your “natural law” lest unpleasant outcomes present themselves. What the argument then reverts to of course is the fact that you only wish those outcomes that impact you personally to be prevented, while outcomes that benefit you are allowed. While this might be pleasant in a world in which you are the only occupant, it becomes rather unwieldy in a society of 350 million people and a world pushing 8 billion.

              • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/30/2014 - 08:43 am.

                I’m not an anarchist

                I’ve said all along that there is a role for government and that role is to preserve, protect and defend your constitutional rights. We’re constitutionalists, not anarchists.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/30/2014 - 09:24 am.

                  No your a half”ways” anarchist

                  You only wish government enough to prevent anarchy from impacting you negatively, for everyone else, let ‘er rip.

          • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/29/2014 - 09:57 pm.


            The right to life simply means that if you are murdered, the government will prosecute your murderer.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/29/2014 - 03:59 pm.

          Oh, these founding fathers…

          “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.” (Alexander Hamilton)

          “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” (James Madison, Federalist 51)

          …Government, on the other hand, originates from our wickedness, promotes happiness negatively by restraining our vices, creates distinctions, and is a punisher… If men were perfect, with clear consciences, then there would be no point in a government… The start of government, and its rise, is due to the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; the end of government is freedom and security. (Thomas Paine, Common Sense)

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/29/2014 - 07:36 pm.

      Reason magazine and Holocaust denial

      I do hope readers check out Reason magazine, and while they’re at it, I hope they also dig a little more deeply into its history:

      When you take into account libertarianism’s allegiances with Holocaust deniers and racists, it makes you wonder wonder how on earth a magazine could ever have wound up being named Reason in the first place.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/30/2014 - 08:42 am.

        Reason’s support back in the 70’s is hardly relevant today. No more than the Dem party support of Jim Crowe laws or Planned Parenthood’s support for eugenics. To suggest that modern libertarians or current Koch support is tantamount to Holocaust denial is a slur and an obvious one.

        • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/30/2014 - 01:16 pm.

          libertarianism and long arm of history

          I’m not, of course, suggesting that libertarianism or “Koch support” is tantamount to Holocaust denial.

          What should be evident from libertarianism’s historical associations with racism and Holocaust denialism however is that if a political/philosophical movement has had such a record, then this should call into question its intellectual legitimacy, at least to thinking people.

          But the abject blunders in judgment of prominent libertarians don’t end or start with the above. Ludwig Von Mises, a philosphical hero to many libertarians, expressed admiration for fascism and Mussolini. Back to the 70s, prominent libertarians like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were admirers of the Pinochet dictatorship, infamous for it many murders and widespread use of torture:

          “Like Friedman, Hayek glimpsed in Pinochet the avatar of true freedom, who would rule as a dictator only for a “transitional period,” only as long as needed to reverse decades of state regulation. “My personal preference,” he told a Chilean interviewer, “leans toward a liberal [i.e. libertarian] dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism.” In a letter to the London Times he defended the junta, reporting that he had “not been able to find a single person even in much maligned Chile who did not agree that personal freedom was much greater under Pinochet than it had been under Allende.” Of course, the thousands executed and tens of thousands tortured by Pinochet’s regime weren’t talking.”

          Into the 1990s (1993 to be exact) an open racist like Samuel Francis could get published without protest in the libertarian Rothbard-Rockwell Report (p. 173 in Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from The John Birch Society to The Promise Keepers, by Jean Hardisty). Murray Rothbard, another prominent libertarian and fellow-traveler with the old right, never renounced its flagrant racism. (Ibid., p. 174).

          The following should be your only valid take-away from this, which repeats my above statement: A political movement that has made this many recent fundamental mistakes about the Holocaust, racism, and right-wing dictatorships, is highly likely subject to the same underlying biases and errors in the rest of its philosophy. That Reason magazine’s Holocaust revisionism occurred in the 1970s is hardly relevant. That it occurred at all is the problem.

          • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/30/2014 - 04:12 pm.


            Eric, I assume that the support of Communist leaders like Castro by prominent liberals is a problem for all liberals then, right? How about the connections between the Nation of Islam and various Dem politicians? ‘That it occurred at all is the problem’, right?
            There are racists in the libertarian camps even today. I’ll give you a shock. There are racists among the left today, too. Any large group of people, any movement of size, will attract some unsavory characters. If you attend a left leaning protest at a college today, you’re bound to find some genuine anti-Semitic signs and protesters. Should we tar all young liberals with antisemitism then?
            This is cheap guilt by association. I just hope that everyone can see through it.

            • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/30/2014 - 10:40 pm.

              Not presence as much as prominence

              The point is not guilt by association. It’s how much screwball ideas and dated bigotries have often gotten a free pass in prominent libertarian circles, and in fact have occupied center stage.

              Every grouping of people has its unreasonable, more extreme, or irrational elements. But it matters whether they play on the margins or at the center.

              Did you read this piece?:

              From the article:

              “I found out about the Holocaust Museum’s shutdown when I tried to contact them about their online “Holocaust Denial Timeline.” Some of the names and events on the museum’s list figure big in the history of libertarianism and in the early involvement of Charles Koch in creating the modern libertarian movement, which I investigate in the current print edition of the NSFWCORP.

              This entry on the Holocaust Denial Timeline stands out the most, because it directly ties Charles Koch and the libertarian empire he built to the rise of the Holocaust denial industry…”

              Charles Koch help fund Rampart College, an unaccredited libertarian school, which also appears to have been a hotbed of Holocaust denialism:

              “The 1966 Rampart College promotional booklet features a photo of young Charles Koch holding a shovel ceremonially breaking ground on a planned new Rampart extension building, as his white-haired guru Robert LeFevre stands beside him, smiling. Under Koch’s influence and funding, LeFevre started publishing reams of what libertarians call “historical revisionism”—a euphemism for Holocaust denial propaganda—which the Holocaust Museum notes on its timeline.

              But it goes much deeper than one author in a couple of journals. Under Koch’s watch, LeFevre hired one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers to head up the new Rampart College history department: James J. Martin, who later served as an editorial director at neo-Nazi leader Willis Carto’s “Institute for Historical Review,” the largest and the worst of all America’s Holocaust denial outfits.”

              Readers might want to also read Racism and American Libertarian Thought and ask yourself if this is indicative of fringe and marginal elements within libertarianism, or viewpoints that might actually be closer to the libertarian mainstream:

              Are Ron Paul and his close associate Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr., also a prominent libertarian, merely isolated racists within the movement? I don’t know, but I seriously doubt it. What do we make of the recent exposé on reddit that found that a contingent of reddit libertarian/Ron Paul supporters were connected to the white nationalist movement?

              When you take the above and much else into account, what you don’t see is extremism on the margins of libertarianism. Instead you realize that crackpot ideas, extremism, expressions of heartless selfishness, and, yes, bigotry, runs through many of its leaders and, seemingly, much of the grassroots decade after decade.

  19. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/29/2014 - 09:29 am.

    FDR’s Liberties

    How long after FDR’s Four Liberties speech did he intern Japanese-Americans? They were provided free houses, so maybe he only kinda infringed on their freedoms, right?

    I’m surprised that there has been no discussion of positive and negative liberties here. A positive liberty is one where someone is kept from a bad situation (i.e. freedom from want) where a negative liberty describes a right that can’t be taken from someone. So the negative liberty reading of a general ‘right to bear arms’ describes a situation in which people can’t be forbidden from owning guns, but a positive liberty reading is one where guns would be provided.
    FDR’s assertion of positive liberties doesn’t constrain all of us, forever, from the negative liberty position. In fact, the negative one was the more basic understanding from before the founding of the country.
    He suggests a right to a good education but that doesn’t magically make it appear. Similarly, his promise of a right to a good job didn’t make them happen either. You could argue that the creation of the WPA and similar was a good idea in the depression (and I’m not sure I would disagree) but would the failure of the government to create jobs mean that the unemployed were having their rights violated? Right now we have the lowest job participation rate in a generation. Should the jobless file a civil rights suit?
    If not, why?

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/29/2014 - 11:27 am.

      Good Points

      It seems many people here think that “freedom” means that the government must provide “it”, whatever “it” is. And that the recipients effort or lack of effort is immaterial to the discussion.

      As is who’s Private Property is seized to enable this “freedom”.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 04/29/2014 - 01:14 pm.

        And as Appelen

        chimes in…we arrive full circle. Back to taxes being “seizure” and anyone that isn’t wealthy is lazy. Cue usual pimping of his blog for more unique insight…that’s a wrap.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 04/29/2014 - 04:52 pm.

      Yes, there’s the distinction between negative & positive liberty

      But it isn’t deeply meaningful at this point. If the members of a society can do something collectively that advances ordered liberty, and there is enough social prosperity to apply the resources to do it, it ought to be done. Negative liberty was a place to start when the nation was young and didn’t have the capacity (resources, structure) to undertake very much of a collective nature. But anyone who sees human freedom as the ultimate value must agree that the chief task of civic life (i.e., government by and for the people) is to use increasing prosperity to make ever-increasing investments in ordered liberty by creating opportunity, generating public goods and managing risk. A society that stops at “negative” liberty isn’t a society that is very interested in liberty at all. John Locke just isn’t very relevant any more.

      I agree that “rights” talk – whether by FDR or by the Libertarian – isn’t coherent. But that’s another matter.

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 04/30/2014 - 08:54 am.


        Part of the thrust of this article is that the definition of freedom has drifted, with an implication that the GOP is trying to change the accepted form from FDR’s version. That’s not right. And, yes, it’s important. Negative liberty still has a big place in our life. It’s an American right to tell the government to get out of the way.

        ” But anyone who sees human freedom as the ultimate value must agree that the chief task of civic life (i.e., government by and for the people) is to use increasing prosperity to make ever-increasing investments in ordered liberty by creating opportunity, generating public goods and managing risk.”

        There is a lot packed into that statement. There is an unacknowledged tension between ‘ever-increasing investments in ordered liberty’ and human freedom. What happens to the people whose freedom is quashed by those investments? (See the recent Kelo decision for an obvious example.) And what happens when the government makes bad choices of investment and hurts the people it was trying to help? That’s when those negative liberties are pretty important.
        On a side note, I first read Locke about two years ago and was blown away with how smart he was. He’s still very relevant today.

        • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 04/30/2014 - 05:34 pm.

          Absolutely, there’s a lot packed into that statement.

          But it ain’t easy to articulate one’s entire social, economic and political philosophy in one MinnPost paragraph. I thought I did pretty well.

          Collective action is essential to advancing ordered liberty. But collective action requires bureaucracy that over time always diverges from optimal pursuit of the public good, consumes social resources and, in its imprecision, visits benefits and costs differently on different people. More decentralization, less bureaucracy are good orienting principles. Legislatures tend to do far too much legislating on the wrong things, and too little on what they ought.

          At the same time, insufficient collective action, leading to a concentration of private wealth and power, ensures an outcome far, far away from any meaningful concept of liberty (Kelo wasn’t about bureaucracy, it was about concentrated private power – which among other things readily captures bureaucracy and uses it as just another modality toward its ends).

          When a thousand or a million or 300 million people need to live together, figuring out how to set the rules and instill the norms so that people actually can live decent lives in a sustainable way isn’t simple. There isn’t a higher power to do it for us, and we can’t ignore it in favor of a bumper sticker notion of “freedom” that doesn’t tax our purse or our minds, but also doesn’t exist in the real world.

          Locke was a brilliant guy. But he wrote under social and economic conditions that bear no relation to the present. My chief criticism of Libertarianism is that it can’t seem to grasp that it isn’t 1690 any more.

        • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/01/2014 - 08:15 am.

          If you read Locke, you should note that “property” is not the equivalent of “pursuit of happiness.”

          Locke used the exact phrase “pursuit of happiness” in his essay on Human Understanding.

          There is a reason why the phrase was used in the documents it was.

          It means more than ownership rights.

  20. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 04/29/2014 - 09:24 pm.

    Wrong discussion

    For some reason the discussion narrowed to libertarians and their views. However, that is irrelevant to the topic. The danger of the government providing jobs and bread is much more significant but no one responded to my alarm. What a pity!

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/30/2014 - 09:28 am.

      Thats because

      Your alarmist clarion call to action is unfounded and foolish. We aren’t Russia and never will be. Find a new argument.

  21. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/30/2014 - 07:55 am.

    It seems that the conservative/libertarian view of the founding of America was akin to the opening a free-trade zone with the primary interests of the the country being commercial.

    It is clear the founders instituted a country of laws that would defend its citizens from external and internal predators which allowed for the widest scope of freedom consistent with the rights of the weaker elements of of the country.

    They were as aware of the predatory power of great wealth an hereditary power, as well as the dangers of a too intrusive governmental. It was not just external enemies the government was to guard against, it was also to guard against internal enemies of the welfare of its citizens.

    The conservative/libertarian branch is too willing to discard the governments role in protecting its citizens against the predations of its own citizens, forgetting that the example of the predatory capitalism was fully before the face in the founders in the era of the flowering of the ultimate capitalist state of Great Britain.

    “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.” (Alexander Hamilton)

    “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” (James Madison, Federalist 51)

    …Government, on the other hand, originates from our wickedness, promotes happiness negatively by restraining our vices, creates distinctions, and is a punisher… If men were perfect, with clear consciences, then there would be no point in a government… The start of government, and its rise, is due to the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; the end of government is freedom and security. (Thomas Paine, Common Sense)

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/30/2014 - 09:29 am.


      All those quotes indicate is the Founders’ belief that laws, law enforcement, and the courts would be needed to protect your new Constitutional rights. Which is what conservatives and libertarians have always argued.

      • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 04/30/2014 - 03:07 pm.

        Dennis, you need to read some history

        Many people treat American history as projection of their own psychology and ideological biases. Whatever they happen to believe at the moment surely must have been the case way back then. Except there are plenty of cases where that isn’t true. Take government healthcare mandates:

        “Congress Passes Socialized Medicine and Mandates Health Insurance – In 1798

        “The ink was barely dry on the PPACA when the first of many lawsuits to block the mandated health insurance provisions of the law was filed in a Florida District Court.
        The pleadings, in part, read:
        The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage.
        [State of Florida, et al. vs. HHS]
        It turns out, the Founding Fathers would beg to disagree.
        In July of 1798, Congress passed – and President John Adams signed – “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.
        Keep in mind that the 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating this Act as many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution.
        And when the Bill came to the desk of President John Adams for signature, I think it’s safe to assume that the man in that chair had a pretty good grasp on what the framers had in mind.”

        So, if we follow Dennis’ view that we should only have government that reflects some imagined constitutional intention, then it looks like that intention includes socialized medicine with government mandates. Perhaps Dennis has some other constitution in mind, other than that of the United States?

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/01/2014 - 12:42 pm.

        Madison–Federalist Paper 51

        First. In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.

        Second. It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens…..The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority. In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects….. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger….

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/30/2014 - 11:44 am.

    Liberandians and political spectrums.

    Clearly some people are confused about their own location on the political spectrum. Suffice to say that you need not have read a single word of Ayn Rand or John Birch to qualify as a Libertarian. The confused and incoherent ideals of Libertarian/Randian pseudo philosophy have become so ubiquitous within the American right wing that many don’t actually realize their so-called “independent” thinking originated. Tea partiers for instance tend to be particularly confused regarding their actual intellectual heritage.

    Be that as it may, the rest of us must try to have intelligent discussions and liberals also seem to get confused once and while. For instance, I run across a quite a few liberals who seem to have forgotten that “limited government” was actually a liberal idea and is a standard feature of liberal democracies. That’s what all the checks and balances were about. When so-conservatives show with their weird notion that “limited” government is their idea, and then seek to create dictatorial systems liberals would do well to remember their roots.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 04/30/2014 - 08:36 pm.

      Wishful Thinking

      Let us hope then that Liberals someday return to their roots.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/01/2014 - 08:07 am.

        Liberal’s have not strayed from their roots….

        Liberal’s are not trying to establish dictatorial polices that restrict voting and marriage rights or attempt to use the coercive power of the state to enforce mono-cultural economic standards. Tis conservatives who everywhere from books bans to secret prisons assault liberty with unlimited government solutions to every problem, large or small, real or imaginary. The fact that such assaults are launched under the guise of “freedom” has long been observed as a standard conservative bait and switch. Somebody once said: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” THAT person or persons, will NOT be a liberal, they will look a lot more like Sarah Palin than Paul Wellstone.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/01/2014 - 01:33 pm.

          Nolan Diagram

          There is a reason that a tyranny can be an economic Liberal or Conservative on the Nolan chart.

          Because government control is government control. Be it preventing abortions or redistributing money.

          The GOP and DFL both seem very comfortable using government to force the society to conform to their version of what is “good”. And to punish those that do want to comply.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/01/2014 - 04:28 pm.

            Government control is government control?

            Yes, so there’s no difference between affordable housing and concentration camps. And no difference between Iran and the Netherlands. Where there be government control, control is control. Nolan chart? No wonder some people are sooooo confused.

  23. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/02/2014 - 12:42 am.

    Anyone who wants to see what Libertarianism would look like

    in practice need only look at the Third World: massive numbers of poor people, few or no public services, the government spending, as Libertarians would prefer, only on the military and the criminal justice system.

    Such countries are fantastic places to be rich, because cheap labor allows you to build your own water and power sources, hire bodyguards, have servants, send your children to a private boarding school, pave the roads in your gated community, and in other ways act like a feudal lord. As news reports of the East African famine of the 1980s noted, the rich people of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia did not starve, because they simply imported their food.

    I think your average suburban Libertarian imagines that he (it’s almost always “he”) would be one of those grandees in a gated villa with private water and power sources, bodyguards, a servant for every purpose, a membership in a private club that offers facilities for golf and tennis, and a few businesses unbound by environmental or labor laws. There are websites that tout Third World real estate for affluent Americans, conjuring visions of a country club lifestyle on a YMCA budget and few or no taxes,

    However, it is far more likely that if our Libertarian had been born and brought up in a Third World country, as opposed to moving to one as a financially comfortable American, he would be one of the people living in a tin and cardboard slum, working sunrise to sunset for a pittance, illiterate, undernourished, inflicted with a chronic disease or two, hoping that all his children survive to adulthood, and aware that if he complained too much, he would end up as a corpse at the side of the road.

    I cannot think of a single country with low taxes, cheap labor, few or no public services, and few regulations on business and industry that offers a good quality of life for the average person as well as for the upper 5% or so. However, I can think of a dozen or more highly taxed, well-paid, well-regulated countries with excellent public services that offer a quality of life equal to or better than that available to middle class Americans.

    Some years back, Libertarians were trying to take over one of the smaller states in the Union to create their own Utopia. I wish they would do that. It would be fun to watch, and I’m sure the other states would be happy to take in the refugees.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/02/2014 - 09:17 am.

      United States of America

      “I cannot think of a single country with low taxes, cheap labor, few or no public services, and few regulations on business and industry that offers a good quality of life for the average person as well as for the upper 5% or so. ”

      USA until ~1970…

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/02/2014 - 02:31 pm.

        Except of course that all of those examples

        With the possible exception of the last (and that’s simply a matter of degree) are false. But then you already knew that.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/03/2014 - 07:30 am.

          Please Clarify

          From what I have heard, many people think the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were pretty good times in America.

          And now with equal racial rights in place, the cold war behind us, no Vietnam, gay acceptance growing, abortion rights in place, etc… It seems like that would be a good benchmark for what government spending should be.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/03/2014 - 10:12 pm.


            As long as you agree with it as a benchmark for taxation. What was that top marginal rate again?

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/03/2014 - 10:16 pm.


            Could we also go back to the banking regulations of that period too? I kind of like laws against usury and given the events of recent years I’d sure like Glass-Steagal back.

      • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/03/2014 - 12:51 pm.

        Income taxes were high until

        the Reagan era, the ratio between executive pay and rank-and-file workers’ pay was closer to the ratios that still obtain in other Western countries, strong unions protected workers from exploitation, and while electronic goods were super-expensive (I recall $300 pocket calculators, and that’s in 1973 dollars), basic expenses such as housing, food, clothing, medical care, college tuition, and transportation were cheaper in real terms.

        Since the Reagan administration, low taxes on high-incomes and corporations, union-busting, real estate speculation, offshoring of the clothing and other manufacturing industries, deification of the shareholder at the expense of other stakeholders, for-profit hospitals and clinics, administrative bloat and “edifice complexes” in higher education, and a refusal to wean ourselves off oil (and the wars for oil) have brought us to this sorry state.

        I was a college student 1970. We were neither a Libertarian dreamworld nor a Third World country. Having visited Europe in 1967, I know that our living standard was THE highest in the world.

        Then the older people who were still in cultural shock from the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s had to go and elect Reagan. It was a classic Greek tragedy.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/04/2014 - 08:57 am.

          Blame Who You Will

          The world changed. Foreign countries recovered from WWII. They offered better products for less money. The transportation costs dropped due to bigger ships, containerization, etc. The communication costs plummeted with the introduction of computers, fiber optics, satellites, etc.

          The American consumers were given new choices and the trade deficits exploded.

          I don’t think the politicians had much to do with this… The American high price / high cost bubble was not sustainable because consumers were not willing to pay more for less.

          You could buy that gas guzzling unreliable Chevy that was made by very highly paid Union mechanics or you could buy that reliable low cost Honda Civic that was made by Japanese personnel. Many people jumped ship. Which did you choose?

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/04/2014 - 07:13 pm.

            Highly paid union personnel

            First of all, it wasn’t the unionized workers who designed the gas guzzlers. It was non-unionized (and highly paid) engineers and designers who designed them and highly paid marketing specialists who promoted decoration and size over efficiency. The unionized workers merely did what the higher-ups told them to do and had no say in what actually came down the assembly line. They were treated like flesh and blood robots and simply performed the same action 40 hours a week. Perhaps the assembly line workers were so highly paid as compensation for the tedium of their work day. (I worked assembly line in another kind of factory as a summer job once. I nearly lost my mind.)

            Second, Japanese auto workers have been unionized since the American Occupation. Unlike the American auto workers, they did have input into how the car was built and were encouraged to make suggestions for design features, mechanical improvements, and ways to streamline the manufacturing process. Compared to other industrial workers of the era, they were not particularly underpaid, either.

            The result was that Americans came to prefer Japanese cars when gas prices skyrocketed in the 1970s, but the rank-and-file autoworkers were not to blame.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/04/2014 - 10:40 pm.

              Generous Motors

              There were problems at all levels… Vision, design and manufacturing… Did you ever see the movie “Gung Ho”… And the whole time everyone thought they should be paid more… They pretty much gutted that golden egg laying goose.


              One of the most aggregious wastes was when the union insisted that the companies had to keep paying the union employees when there was no work to do. The employees just had to sit there, talking about mind numbing.

              So now that GM was saved by government intervention and has improved. Why do I still see most of my Liberal friends driving Honda, VW’s, Subarus, Toyotas, etc? Any thoughts?

              • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/05/2014 - 05:46 am.

                Anectdotal projection?

                I have lots of liberal friends too. They drive American cars. The conservatives I know do too. I know you are just trying to score some hypocrisy points, but you might want to pick something less arbitrary and easily refuted, unless of course you’d like to pull up some data of car dealers polling their customers’ political motivations upon purchase of their vehicles. Somehow I don’t think you’ll find any.

              • Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/05/2014 - 10:15 am.


                I worked for a company that proposed to their employees that they should adopt the Japanese model of ‘bottom up’ rather than ‘top down’ work-management system the US uses. That means the workers should have a greater role in how they structure their work and work loads. Except that management still wanted the ‘top down’ structure where management structures the work and the work loads. We spent hours a week for many months trying to figure out how to make it work. It was basically an “exercise in futility”.

                Many Japanese companies pay their workers when there is no work for them instead of just laying them off. There is a good reason for this since they keep their most experienced workers that way. They either pay them a bit less or the workers do community volunteer work until the work picks up again. American companies are divorced from the American people. When there’s a downturn in work, the companies lay their workers off who then hope they can survive on Unemployment until they find work. Most American companies feel no loyalty to their employees.

                Who’s buying those Jaguar’s running around town?

  24. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/02/2014 - 07:57 am.

    The pitiful state of modern conservatism is on display here for all to see.

    Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    Mr. Appelen gets on the favorite hobby-horse of free-loaders and wants to institute a program of compulsory labor for those people who receive “welfare”. He becomes yet another conservative who says the US should emulate China, because they know how to do things.

    Mr. Tester has somehow determined that the founding fathers were most concerned about “life, liberty and property” and that the use of “pursuit of happiness” in documents is just a long winded way of saying “property”. And with the use of “property” he assumes that the founders were apparently endorsing Locke’s ideas of property, which Locke had formulated as a proponent of hereditary aristocracy in a slave-owning colony.

    Mr. Swift (as well as all of the other conservative commenters) is vociferous again in how Social Security and Medicare are a fraud and they don’t, can’t and won’t work. To them it is a matter that your life be determined exactly by how much one “earned”. No more, no less.

    They all seem determined to take the narrowest view of “life, liberty and “property””–a country formulated on a commercial proposition as a free-trade zone.

    In fact, they are so conservative that they really want to go back to jolly olde England–land of compulsory labor in poor-houses, the old, ill and feeble dying in ditches as the aristocracy rode by in their 6 horse carriages, or people knowing their proper station in life and not wanting to rise above it, or that the wealth of a person was the determinant of their power over others.

    However, the “pursuit of happiness” as meant by Locke and the founders is the right to strive for permanent, real improvement in the the civic, moral, social and physical aspects of it’s citizens life, individually and collectively. This was the age of enlightenment, when the improvement of the condition of humanity was an important new concept.

    Feudalism and the idea of its privileges was dead.

    Or so we thought.

  25. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/02/2014 - 09:05 am.

    Karen and Neal

    Exactly on point. And back to Eric, it’s true that all groups have their extreme fringes, but some groups start out as fringes in the first place. I think ultimately Libertarianism is an incoherent ideology by it’s very nature.

    The main problem with Libertarianism as an American ideology is that it inevitably comes into conflict with liberal democracy under the guise of defending the nations founding principles.

    I must admit I skip and skim some of our examples here but I’ll bet someone somewhere in these 100+ comments has pronounced the old Libertarian canard that America is a “republic” not a democracy. This distinction in search of a difference betrays the fact that Libertarians: a) Don’t understand the history or nature of the liberal democracy they live in, and b) On a very basic level don’t actually believe in democracy.

    This business of pretending our Republic is something other than a liberal democracy is merely mental gymnastics that provides a rational for rejecting the democratic process. Like that idiot rancher who thinks he’s entitled to feed his cattle for free on pubic land indefinitely and doesn’t recognize the government.

    Liberal democracies establish laws via democratic process and expect individuals will obey the rule of law. In other words, democracy expects individuals will submit to the will of the majority, but at the same time establishes some protections for the individual against the tyranny of the Majority. Libertarians always come into conflict with democracy because they don’t believe an individual should ever be required to submit to laws they don’t agree with. This is why and how libertarians convert democracy into a form of oppression and conclude that a nation of enforceable laws is a perversion of the constitution rather than the intended consequence… i.e. we’ve gone off the rails and turned our Republic into a Democracy.

    Historically and intellectually this is gibberish but it’s the only way a Libertarian can preserve the illusion of patriotism while rejecting many of the basic principles the country was founded on.

    And Karen is right, we know what the Libertarian utopia looks like, it looks like Somalia or Bangladesh. If we let them, these guys will try to transform our nation into Somalia and Bangladesh although they’ll deny doing so all along the way.

  26. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/02/2014 - 06:20 pm.


    In reading all these comments, it is interesting to see that Mr. Appleton is always respectful of his opponents while those who are bashing him constantly attribute the worst possible qualities to him. Is this the difference in how liberals and conservatives treat their opponents?

    Anyway, I am still trying to figure out how all third world countries, including specifically noted Somalia and Bangladesh, became libertarian utopias? Mr. Udstrand should talk to some Somalis who fled Somalia and not because it was truly free nation (when was the last free election held there?) Oh, and forced labor is a feature of Socialism…

    All those commenting here in support of government control just forget what happens when government has too much control and the more control it has the more difficult it is to control the government. That is what I mentioned before but no one responded to that preferring instead to talk about either irrelevant or non-existent things…

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/02/2014 - 09:48 pm.


      “All those commenting here in support of government control just forget what happens when government has too much control and the more control it has the more difficult it is to control the government. That is what I mentioned before but no one responded to that preferring instead to talk about either irrelevant or non-existent things…”

      You live a liberal constitutional democracy called the United States of America. Limits to government control are built into our constitution and have been effectively enforced for over 200 years. We have the most robust and stable democracy on the planet.

      The other major problem with Libertarian narratives is that they run so completely contrary to our historical arc as a nation. The libertarian narrative declares that we are a nation in decline with with crumbling individual freedoms. The actual history of our nation has been one of constantly expanding freedoms and privilege, contrary to the libertarian narrative more people enjoy more freedoms, influence, and participation in governing the nation. We still have much work to do, but the idea that we’re descending into tyranny is little more than hysterics.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/03/2014 - 12:59 pm.

      Ilya, when there are no limitations on economic activity,

      such as requiring business owners and landowners to treat their employees humanely or pay them no less than a certain amount, eventually the most desperate have no choice but forced labor or debt bondage, because there are no laws preventing the wealthy and powerful from exploiting people in this way.

      Nineteenth century America was pretty Libertarian. It had no labor laws, no health and safety standards, low taxes, and only rudimentary public services and private charity. We changed all that because we realized that the common good was not served by impoverished people sending their children to work in factories at age 6, merchants selling dangerous or shoddy goods, people living in slums without running water or indoor plumbing, sometimes even basements without windows or other ventilation, and the unfortunate receiving help only if the private charities (usually run by smug rich people) decided that they were “worthy.”

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 05/04/2014 - 09:39 am.

      Ilya – Somalia etc are offered as libertarian utopias

      Not because they are “truly free,” but because there are no structures for collective constraint on individual prerogative. The point that those of us on the left have been offering ad nauseum is that libertarianism – strict limits on collective leavening of individual prerogative – necessarily leads to unfreedom and tyranny, and that the only real route to a society with a decent measure of liberty is a strong instrumentality for collective action (aka “government”) exercised carefully by a thoughtful and engaged citizenry.

      Not meaning disrespect, but speaking for myself, I haven’t responded to your fear of tyranny from too much government control because it doesn’t offer a plausible hypothesis for how the tyranny you fear might come to be. There are no historical examples of a tyranny arising in a society with a developed economy except with the support of concentrated private power. That is why the concern of the left is not about the size of government, it is about the concentration of private power, whether exercised in the absence of, or through, a strong government.

      The fundamental distinction between the right and the left is the right’s principled opposition to interfering in the natural accumulation of wealth and power in the few and the prerogative of those few to use their wealth and power however damaging that may be for the sustainability of a society, versus the left’s view that the playing field needs to be kept relatively balanced in order for our economic and political systems to function over time.

      I do disagree with Paul below. I think the arc of our society bends toward democracy in name only. Yes, we continue to move in a welcome fashion toward greater social tolerance, but where it really counts (how social wealth is held and exercised – and how that affects our ability to function economically and politically) it doesn’t look very good. All one has to do is to look at the looming threats that can truly lead to social breakdown – climate change, water depletion, antibiotic resistance – and why we as a society and a world are incapable of acting to address them. All the tolerance in the world isn’t going to change the fact that those who hold the marbles aren’t going to willingly give them up, even if the fate of the world depends on it.

  27. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/03/2014 - 03:32 pm.

    Back to “freedom”

    The single most transformative act of freedom in modern America would be the institution of a single-payer health care system.

    People no longer tied to job, occupation or location by their insurance needs.

    People free to pursue projects, whether artistic, community or commercial, without worrying about illness and its financial effects.

    We already pay more than enough for such a system.

  28. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/04/2014 - 02:54 pm.

    The left and the right

    Some people are confusing libertarians and anarchist – they are different things. And if some libertarians do not understand what libertarianism is, we should not hold the entire theory responsible: After all, many liberals do not understand what true liberalism is (not allowing Rice to speak at Rutgers is not liberal).

    The US was a pretty much laissez faire country and look where it took America: to the point of being the freest, wealthiest, and most powerful country on earth (I am talking about the first half of the 20th century, before the Great Deal and the Great Society). Then people decided that now they could make it better and started all the social programs. It was right at that time and the country became even better.

    The problem is that even good thing taken to a certain level becomes bad. People need to drink but too much water leads to water poisoning (and even drowning). We water out lawns during droughts but we stop doing it when it is not necessary anymore or at least reduce the level of it. I do not have anything against paying taxes and I am sure absolute majority of people, even libertarians, don’t either. But the nature of taxes is redistribution and too much of it may lead to trouble. As I mentioned before, the slogan of the communist revolution was “we will expropriate the expropriators” and we all know what it had lead to.

    I did actually explain how too much control by the government may lead to tyranny. When government becomes the one which provide bread and butter and jobs to people, they come to expect it. In this case two scenarios are possible. First, the government realizes that it doesn’t have resources to provide for everyone (that will come inevitably since people would not work if they do not have to – see the USSR) and will try to cut the spending; that will lead to people rioting and turning to extreme left or right parties which would offer people all they want, The second option is that the government itself will decide to grab more power and people, who depend on it, will not say a word. Why would people who are dependent on government support will vote for anyone but those who promise more government support; and those people will not care much about liberties (and we in America are in the beginning of this). Do many people on welfare care about NSA surveillance or events in Libya as long as they get a check? These scenarios have not come to life yet but the potential is there…

    And finally, the difference between the right and the left is not in whether government should help people but in who should get that help and for how long. The left think that everyone should get it for as long as they want to while the right think that only the deserving should get it and only until they get back on their legs and that the left’s way will lead to unfairness and disaster. In other words, the government help should be a safety net, just as it was originally created, not a mattress. And that is what leads to disagreements about minimal wage, welfare reform, Social Security changes, etc.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/04/2014 - 08:50 pm.

      I’m sorry

      But you’re just wrong. Prior to the New Deal, the first quarter or so of the 20th century, our society was permanently stratified. While its true there was great wealth, it was concentrated in the hands of a few aristocratic families. True to form, lassiez faire capitalism resulted in the creation of gigantic, vertical monopolies that utterly stifled competition. Government corruption was rampant as the powerful simply bought whatever policy decisions they desired. In short, all of the things we on the left claim will happen under such a system of governance did. Then to top it off, the excesses of this situation led to the single greatest economic disaster in modern history. You wonder why we on the left think the right is insane for wishing to turn back the clock? Read a history book.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/05/2014 - 09:15 am.


        Prior to the New Deal we had very unstable economies that experienced frequent and severe depressions or “panics” at they were called. These depressions threw millions of people into crushing poverty and provoked violent social and political upheaval. You can plainly see that as we dialed back the New Deal regulations that instability has begun to return, we’ve been experiencing one bubble after another.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/05/2014 - 01:04 am.

      Not quite

      You wrote “And finally, the difference between the right and the left is not in whether government should help people but in who should get that help and for how long. The left think that everyone should get it for as long as they want to while the right think that only the deserving should get it and only until they get back on their legs and that the left’s way will lead to unfairness and disaster.”

      What I actually see from right-wing commentators is that there should be some arbitrary cut-off point for government benefits, no matter what the individual’s circumstances are. That’s why the Republicans in Congress insisted on voting against extending unemployment benefits (which I have never been on, by the way) unless the Democrats agreed to keeping Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. They argued that the long-term unemployed “should have” found jobs by now and were either too haughty to take low-status jobs or were just living the high life on their unemployment benefits.

      Never mind that there are fewer job openings than there are job seekers. Never mind that employers do not want to hire older workers. Never mind that unemployment benefits are a poverty-level income.

      Another attitude I see from conservatives is second-guessing the unfortunate.

      “Oh, you’re an unemployed Whatever? That’s your own fault for not having trained for That Other Occupation.” In other words, they are highly creative when it comes to thinking up reasons why people’s misfortunes are their own fault. They should have gotten married, they should not have gotten married, they should have moved somewhere else, they should have stayed put, they should have gone for more education, they should not have gone for more education if they couldn’t afford it, they shouldn’t have had children, they should have had children so someone would take care of them in their old age, they should have started their own business, they should not have started their own business, and so on.

      For all their talk of “freedom,” right-wingers can be awfully judgmental about how poor people spend their money. The sight of a low-income person with a smartphone enrages them, even though you can receive an outdated smartphone for free with even a minimal payment plan and spend less than you would for a landline. They are indignant about poor people having DVD players ($30 at Target, with movies $1.25 at Redbox), refrigerators (which landlords are required to provide), and air conditioning (if you drive around town, you will see that even rather shabby apartment buildings have wall or window units). They bristle if a an EBT recipient spends money out of state (visiting relatives?).

      They justify these attitudes by saying that “Those people are living off the taxpayers’ money.” If so, then we had better monitor the past life decisions and personal spending habits of every member of Congress and every member of the armed forces.

  29. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/05/2014 - 08:24 am.


    Chuck: “I do disagree with Paul below. I think the arc of our society bends toward democracy in name only. Yes, we continue to move in a welcome fashion toward greater social tolerance, but where it really counts (how social wealth is held and exercised – and how that affects our ability to function economically and politically) it doesn’t look very good.”

    You wound me sir 🙂 I take your point and I agree we have a long ways to go, but we’ve gone from a beginning where half the country relied on slave labor to a country with Social Security, health care, and unemployment benefits. We may be losing it now, but we did have a robust middle class for a few decades. Not to mention the expansion of voting rights which I think has definitely reshaped the political landscape although maybe not as dramatically as some people like to think. Look at how the Latino vote is crashing the Tea Party right now, that would be impossible as recently as 1940. I agree, the major glitch we have is the failure to recognize a need for economic justice, and the failure to acknowledge how economic injustice makes political and social equality and justice impossible.

  30. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/05/2014 - 08:52 am.

    ILya and government control

    Look, here’s the thing: we live in a country where the “government” can’t even move a freight rail line out of Kennelworth and into Saint Louis Park and your telling us our government “control” is out of control, or that we’re in danger of slipping into some kind of dictatorship. Frankly, it’s a silly proposition.

    Yes, citizens of democracies must remain vigilant, and we do, and we have for over 200 years. But there’s a difference between vigilance and hysteria.

    The reality is we live in a country where a president may decide he can torture prisoners but the courts roll it back. A secretary of state may launch an electronic voter registration beyond his authority but the court reels it in. Some legislators may try to turn their religious beliefs into the law of the land but the people vote it down. It’s not perfect, things go very wrong on occasion, but we don’t end up with dictatorships and there are actually a lot of reasons for that. The US government has never been overthrown and there’s actually a reason for that. Government is not irrelevant. Dictatorships and totalitarian regimes don’t just float around the world landing on countries randomly. The libertarian narrative tells us that if we let the food stamp program get too big we’ll lose all our freedom and wake up in a dictatorship one morning, that’s simply absurd on the face of it.

  31. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/05/2014 - 11:17 am.

    Anarchists and libertarians

    Being a Social Anarchist myself I should probably shed some light on this. The difference between Anarchism and Libertarianism is that Anarchism (and a lot of people don’t know this) is an ideology organized around creating sustainable communities. Anarchy is not “chaos”, its community governance without a coercive state. The closest thing to an Anarchist society would be some of the historical tribal societies around the world. Such tribes have no police, or sheriffs, and although they may have Chiefs, the social expectations require that tribal leaders act in the best interest of the tribe. In many of these tribal cultures you didn’t see the exploitative nepotism develop that we saw in the European and Asian royal systems. In short, Anarchism is actually about organizing a community free of coercion.

    Libertarianism by contrast tends to assume “community” is optional or even completely unnecessary. Whereas Anarchism is anti coercion, Libertarianism is anti- governance. Anarchist acknowledge the need for governance but see it as a community based consensual process rather than a state enforced process. Libertarians in a given discussion may or may not see the need for governance at all. Anarchist see freedom emerging from life in a sustainable community whereas Libertarians just think freedom “is” what it is.

    While Anarchist admit that they can’t describe what an Anarchist nation like the United States or contemporary cultures would look like, they maintain that the principles are instructive and worth pursuing some day. In the meantime many Anarchist support liberal agendas.

    There’s a nice little book by Alexander Berkman: “The ABC’s of Anarchism”. You can get a kindle copy for less than ten bucks:

    Libertarianism on the other hand tends to become incoherent because it doesn’t recognize a lot of basic realities and seeks to impose itself despite any real ideological clarity.

  32. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/05/2014 - 06:14 pm.

    More explanation

    As always, my main point was lost on my opponents. I did not say that government provided help is bad or that the Great Deal was bad (even though it didn’t really help that much). What I am saying is that too much of a good stuff is bad. Are we at that point yet? I do not know for sure but I think we are getting there quickly. My opponents do not even want to acknowledge that there may be a bad point and that is not reasonable. We may argue about when but not about the possibility of existence of that point.

    The right are blamed for blaming the poor. OK, but the left do not want to acknowledge that giving too much to those who do not want to work and study is wrong and spoils people and it is happening now on a pretty significant scale. Why do we need illegal immigrants? To fill the jobs that people do not want. But if people do not have qualifications to do better jobs, why shouldn’t they take those low paying jobs? That is what fits them… The left are the ones who do not want to take individual circumstances into account and give to everyone, even those who is not deserving.

    The main thing is that if something has not happened, it does not mean that it cannot happen. And if extrapolation shows that it may, we better be careful what we wish for.

    By the way, based on Mr. Udstrand definition of anarchism, it is a myth since it is impossible to organize a community free of coercion (unfortunately, there are always some bad people); the anarchists are the ones who actually think that government is not necessary. So in real terms, anarchism in Mr. Udsrtamd’s definition does not take into account people’s nature while libertarians acknowledge that people are not perfect but think that at the end they will figure it out (and they never say that government is not necessary, only that it should be limited)..

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/05/2014 - 10:00 pm.

      The “jobs that people don’t want” are the ones

      that have horrible working conditions or the ones where the employers are itching to pay less than minimum wage. I could tell you stories about the hypocrisy of some of the right-wingers in rural Oregon, who were against illegal immigration when it came to giving speeches or writing letters to the editor and who had conniption fits if the local supermarket had Spanish-language signs in the aisles but who also were happy to hire illegal immigrants for less than minimum wage and house them in storage sheds or tents in the fields.

      If a job pays enough and has decent working conditions, people will take it.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/06/2014 - 11:21 am.

      No Ilya

      The main disagreement I have with your philosophy is the casual nature by which so many are dismissed as worthless and undeserving of aid or support. I think your metrics for ambition are biased by your own goals. While you may be compassionate (I really have no idea) what your ideology lacks is an ability to view the world from anyone’s eyes save your own. Its a flaw that underwrites libertarian ideology as a whole. Every time I see someone make the argument, “I was poor, and look how successful I am” I want to throw something at my screen. That isn’t how the world works, some folks are lucky, others not, what works for one might have the opposite effect on another. For folks so hung up on individualism, you’d think you’d get it.

  33. Submitted by Heather Johnson on 05/17/2014 - 12:04 am.


    Please note, the author of this opinion article, Eric Black did not contact a single Libertarian for comment, has not engaged in discussion with actual party members, and has no realistic basis for what we actually think and feel.

    While it is true, we believe in maximum individual freedom and limited government – we also believe personal freedom stops at the point it does a harm to another’s life, liberty, or property through acts of fraud, force, or coercion.

    Apparently, he ascribes to the notion that the Koch Brothers and Ayn Rand represent libertarianism. They do not.

    While it is true that many ideologies own a piece of the idea of liberty, ours is different and one we stand behind. Not for greed or power, but to oppose means of corruption and conflicts of interest in government that so frequently cause harm to the citizens the government claims to serve.

    In Minnesota, we’ve been a “blue” state for decades, with the DFL holding the majority in the state house and senate quite a lot of that time. (That is on their website)

    Yet, we still have inadequate healthcare, education, homeless people, poverty, we still have marginalized people and at the expense of taxpayers. MN officials have sold out citizens for Federal dollars to fund programs that have failed.

    Libertarians make no claims that we can solve every social ill. Looking at history, we’ve noticed that under EVERY single style of government the issues of poverty, economic differences, homelessness, disadvantaged, marginalized, uneducated, and those lacking healthcare has NEVER been resolved. In fact, to resolve these issues it would take direct effort, group efforts, and likely multiple, innovative ways of creating solutions.

    That cannot happen through government, because a government’s job (the American government’s job is to serve all of the people and not just some or some groups).

    Eric Black’s article lacks depth and complete information. It carries slant.

    It should also be noted that classical liberalism is very close to libertarianism. FDR and many liberals in the DFL have come far from their roots and views on liberty. They certainly aren’t the party of civil rights or pro freeing the slaves.

    A right to “freedom from wants”. Want is relative and quite different than a need. Want speaks to a desire rather than a necessity to live.

    As far as libertarians are concerned. Should people help one another. Absolutely, in person, voluntarily (this happens daily) Is it okay to use a group of people to bully other groups of people taking their property and personal liberties in order to do it? NO. Personal liberty stops at the point it infringes upon another.
    As far as helping our fellows the government hasn’t done a bang up job of it. Welfare for the profit of certain companies is sickening to me. That is exploiting the poor to line the pockets of officials and the rich. Shame on the DFL for supporting that. Shame on the media for not reporting the full story and shame on them for not consulting actual LP members.

    Thank you all,

    Heather Johnson
    LPMN Secretary
    U. S. Senator Candidate 2014

  34. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/30/2014 - 07:37 am.


    Most welfare recipients already have a job, often several jobs that take them away from their families for extended periods of time. They’re on Welfare despite having employment. And yet you want them to work more and take them away from their families even longer.

    Compassionate conservative you’re not. You’re simply conservative.

  35. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 04/30/2014 - 04:24 pm.

    Willful ignorance….

    Less than 5% of the population are “dependent on welfare”, which is defined as having more than half of their family’s income coming from TANF, food stamps, and/or SSDI payments.


    And that is with the cutoff of HALF or more of their income coming from the gubbmint.

  36. Submitted by John Appelen on 04/30/2014 - 08:46 pm.

    Clean Neighborhoods

    Let’s say 1.000.000 adults in metro
    Let’s say 1% of your 5% could be cleaning
    Means 10,000 people could cleaning the metro.

  37. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 05/05/2014 - 04:16 pm.

    But it would be the Big Bad Government paying them, yes?

    Paying poor people to do essential jobs with the money provide by the federal government was the essence of the New Deal programs. During the Depression, my father was in the Civilian Conservation Corps, in which unemployed young men were sent into national forests to build fire watchtowers or campgrounds or trails.

    I’d be all for government programs that hired the unemployed to do the essential work that is not being done in this country.

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