The reason that libertarians--in the contemporary American sense--hang out more with conservatives trhan with liberals is that they *are* conservatives. This is obviously so on economic issues which are historically the important issues dividing Left from Right. As for other issues, not all conservatives favor an interventionist foreign policy and most of them don't support suppression of homosexual acts any more, though they do oppose gay marriage. And some libertarians are pro-life.

In Europe, of course, libertarian still refers to what it did in the nineteenth century--the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist wing of the revolutionary Left. I am not sure who stole the word in America for the pro-capitalist Right--Murray Rothbard?

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This post is goofy. Libertarians are more aligned with economic conservatives because economic rights trump social rights.

Who cares if drugs and prostitutes are legal when the government is taxing you at a 90% rate and you have no money to spend on them?

You can always buy social freedom with money. The reverse does not work.

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I think that most libertarians come to the conclusion that economic freedoms precede other forms of freedom, so it's easier to side with groups that [at least in theory] work to preserve economic freedom first and foremost.

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I still have much to read in this blog. But I want to take a moment to second what Peter Twieg says.

I guess "liberaltarian" describes me as well, though I tend to prefer the label "market liberal", which was first suggested to me by Michael Rothschild (author of Bionomics). Anyway, the problem I've always had when consorting with so called liberals is that they seem to think the injunction against ad hominem doesn't apply to them. It is routine to hear them talking about how stupid conservatives and libertarians are. Conservatives also don't agree with me. But they don't call me a moron either.

I suspect the root cause of this, suggested to me many years ago by the psychologist Peter Breggin, is that liberals believe they have a monopoly on good intentions. This is reinforced by their intellectual history, which embraces the notion of class struggle. The rise and fall of Nazism in the 20th century also did a lot to cement the notion of leftists as good guys, and everyone else as plain evil.

Outside of politics, I prefer the company of liberals. But Peter, I think, is quite right when he says that they simply do not understand what markets accomplish, or why we cannot do without markets. They are constructivists in Hayek's sense of the word. They are the people who inspire the observation that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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Conservatives and libertarians share the ethic of freedom. Liberals coalesce more around the ideas of education and progress.

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Left wing libertarians/anarchists don't hang out in the same think-tank and academic circles you do Robin.

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Libertarians are more naturally supporters of the right than the left because outside the sexual sphere, the right is more supportive of personal freedom than is the left. The right supports higher speed limits, homeschooling, private schools, and more choice in public schools, gun ownership, recreational use of wilderness, and removal of violent criminals from society, while the left opposes all these things.

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Constant wrote, re drug policy and the draft:>>> I'm not arguing that conservatives are better. I'm only arguing that the common perception that liberals are good in these areas is greatly exaggerated.>>>

I agree that the Democrats we've had in power have done no better on these issues than the Republicans. But we haven't had a strong popular movement to hold either side's feet to the fire. Democrats are war-mongers and drug-outlawers out of fear of Republicans calling them weak on defense and weak on crime, rather than because they think war is good and drugs are bad. It's relatively easy to get liberals to join a movement; it's relatively hard to get libertarians to join -- my experience is that they have to feel personally targeted. During the Vietnam War, I believe many libertarians did protest the draft, leading to the end of the war. If they felt pot smoking would send them to prison, I think libertarians might join with pot-smoking liberals, to push for legalization. But, for the most part, the state knows better than to go after white, educated pot-smokers.

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Robin Hanson,It seems to me that you are apply Haidt's hierarchy/authority/respect morality to liberals, to whom he says it doesn't apply. I think that's a very good idea. What about loyalty and purity? (below, I guess I say that libertarians have purity rules about the law)

Erica:If libertarians were in a class of people whose drug use was punished heavily by the state..., they might find they had more in common with liberals than with conservatives.

j:Most libertarians believe they would be personally wealthy or wealthier, given a freer market than they have now, and therefore able to buy their way out of whatever moral restrictions they don't like.

I think you two basically agree. But it seems completely backwards to me. Libertarians (1) hate buying their way out of rules and (2) have difficulty believing that drugs actually are legal for them. cf michael vassar's comment. Libertarians are distracted by rhetoric, and fail to understand what other people think government is and should be. (OK, maybe I'm distracted by libertarian rhetoric, but I do see a few as calculating as j describes and I'm pretty sure they're the minority.)

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Interesting post. I am a registered libertarian who has always thought of myself as a "liberaltarian" - and one of the main reasons I identify more with the ideas of libertarians is that the issues are not always about trying to remold society to agree with ME, or my 'affinity group'. I support things like gay rights because I believe in self-determination and honor true personal freedom. I get a bit annoyed - not to mention a little embarrassed - when liberal pundits and policymakers put huge amounts of emphasis on the idea that this or that group is "oppressed" or "disenfranchised", and making like the only way to cure this is to give the "victims" all kinds of special status. All that does is anger people and stir up hate. I don't like hate and war, so I try to picture a world where people are more free to mind their own business. That means no vast projects to remake society with either blueprints for liberal utopia or right-wing dominionist theocracy.

I say this even though as a drug user I am a member of one of the most derided minority groups there is. I think the answer to the drug issue has been completely missed by everyone: there ought to be at least some experiments with "drug zones", so that people who didn't want to be around drug users could have their way, and people who wanted to be high, and could handle the responsibility, would have the freedom to live life as they please, too. It's sad that there isn't more outreach between libertarians and liberal interest groups, because the libertarian take on the drug issue is the most enlightened there is, I think.

Incidentally, I want to correct Dan's assumption above that liberals are OK with rendition, torture, and wiretapping just because of Obama. Perish the thought! None of my friends and acquaintances, who are all one variety or another of left-leaning or centrist, think any such thing, and we're all looking at whatever resources we can use to try to reach this administration and convince it to clean house of #43's unconstitutional messes.

Don't mistake the fact that we're obviously happier with Obama than Bush to mean we're all going to put up with anything he does without criticism. There are a few more ignorant among us who might not have figured out yet that Obama is not perfect just because we happened to vote for him. But I do not think that this constitutes a majority of us.

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Me too, EmbraceUnity. I just found Carson's blog last week.

This (Overcoming Bias) being a right-ish economics blog, it is unsurprising to see the number of comments suggesting that "liberaltarians" are in need of education in economics. It fits well with the caricature, I suppose. As a raving mad social libertarian, I would contend that the self-identifying libertarians making these comments are in need of education in science. The libertarian (in the context of this post) assumes people get what they deserve. The worldview is built on assumptions about free will, rationality and fair consequences. This social libertarian believes that empirical evidence largely contradicts those assumptions.

True "self made men" are scarce. In my observation, an awful lot of those who self-identify as libertarian (in the context of this post) are generally wealthy men who were born on third base but think they hit triples. They are not a self made men. They are, as everyone is, products of their development environment plus a dash of genetics. As a social libertarian I don't see how being born of privilege should entitle anyone to a lofty position on the Pareto distribution, well above those with similar potential but no opportunity. Social mobility is a myth and the libertarian (in the context of this post) worldview does nothing to amend it.

As for the question of the kindredness of the conservative and libertarian (in the context of this post), try Occam's razor. The means may differ, but the ends jive.

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RH's is a cross-sectional viewpoint - and a longitudinal viewpoint is probably clearer.

Historically everyone is (more or less) conservative and religious to begin with - disbelieves in markets (because they are an abstract concept), and believes in biological differences between men and women and so on.

Then various modifications to this have been proposed, and in some instances have become dominant in some circles.

In this sense liberals and libertarians are similar - in that they are both historically engaged in trying to overcome the spontaneous conservative 'bias'.

But libertarians main difference is that libertarians implicitly regard the industrial revolution as having changed the whole conception of politics and its goals towards a society based on permanent growth in productivity/ production - liberals don't accept this.

Liberalism has its roots in a communism which arose too early to have noticed that the rules were different for modernizing societies - liberals _always_ favour wealth redistribution over wealth creation, because they don't really believe in wealth creation (or at least, they always default to the short term zero sum redistributive game when under pressure; and readily shelve the long term positive sum game of growth).

I think there is a problem if US politics are analyzed in a symmetrical way, because liberalism is just incoherent; it is a set of values that can get governments elected, and may indeed lead to a 'permanent' electoral majority; but analytically liberalism simply does not cohere, which is why liberals are always - usually sooner rather than later - forced to demonize their opponents as a way of winning debates.

Liberalism/ transhumanism and religious conservatism are the only coherent political philosophies; and one or the other will prevail in the long term. I suspect the religious conservatism will prevail for psychological factors if nothing else (libertarianism/ transhumanism simply lacks appeal outside its base of highly intelligent young men).

So the future is between various types of religious conservatism - initially decided by which version can best defend themselves (e.g. Amish may be bad at this, Muslims better), in the longer term which group of R-Cs can combine their religious conservatism with demographic expansion and pro-modernization (pro-science and pro-market) attitudes (eg. Mormons, or some evangelical Christians).

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If libertarians were in a class of people whose drug use was punished heavily by the state [...] they might find they had more in common with liberals than with conservatives. [...] If we had a massive draft, they might find they had more in common with liberals than with conservatives.

Libertarians such as myself are not persuaded that liberals offer greater freedom even in the areas where some seem to think they do. Democrats rule now, so wake me up when cocaine and heroin become legal. Prohibition (alcohol) was bipartisan. "Democrats and Republicans had strong wet and dry factions" (wpedia). In fact, "In January 1917, the 65th Congress convened, in which the dries outnumbered the wets by 140 to 64 in the Democratic party and 138 to 62 among Republicans," which is remarkably balanced.

During the Iraq war, Rangel, a Democrat, pushed for a military draft. Woodrow Wilson and FDR both sent draftees into the World Wars. Wilson "began the first effective draft in 1917" (wpedia) and sent 100 thousand American soldiers to their deaths (I do not know what proportion of this were draftees, but 2.4 million were drafted out of a total of 4.7 million, so I'd guess about half). "President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 which created the country's first peacetime draft and formally established the Selective Service System as an independent Federal agency." (about.com) "The registration requirement was suspended in April 1975. It was resumed again in 1980 by President Carter in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan."

I'm not flipping the tables. I'm not arguing that conservatives are better. I'm only arguing that the common perception that liberals are good in these areas is greatly exaggerated.

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Libertarians support low taxes because [libertarian principle rooted in freedom]. Conservatives support low taxes so that [signalling-based explanation not explicitly claimed as a conservative principle].Libertarians support gay marriage because [libertarian principle rooted in freedom]. Liberals support gay marriage because [signalling-based explanation not explicitly claimed as a liberal principle].


(This observation is not original to me -- noahpoah pointed it out on Andrew Gelman's blog.)

I'm as certain as I can be that Robin Hanson doesn't think libertarians are transparently motivated paragons of non-signalling. So what are libertarians signalling by their support of these specific policies?

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I added to the post.

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