So what, precisely, is a libertarian? The word gets banded around quite a bit online, but does anyone understand what it truly entails?
It turns out that of the 11% of the so-called libertarian population polled, about one third have no idea what the word means. Pew Research found that answer by focusing on the 11% of respondents who self-identified as libertarian, and found that only the very basic meaning — less government means more freedom — was accepted by all. That’s where the similarities began and ended.
The demographics are interesting, but they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know: 15% male, 12% in the 18-29 age bracket, 12% white, and 15% college graduate. Almost 20% make above $76,000 a year. What’s telling is that only 7% are women, while only 3% are African-American.
Let’s start by looking at some of the figures. One of the core views of all types of libertarianism is that less government is better. So, how do those self-described libertarians feel about the role of government?
- 41% of libertarians believe that the government should regulate business.
- 46% of libertarians believe that corporations make too much profit.
- 38% of libertarians believe that government aid to the poor is good.
- 42% (almost identical to the general population) believe that police should be able to stop and search people who look like criminals.
- 26% think “homosexuality should be discouraged.”
Keep in mind, libertarians are supposed to be “live and let live” on social issues. And while libertarians supposedly support the legalization of pot, 33% of the respondents did not.
In all of the above questions, libertarians were at least a little likely to align themselves with the libertarian stance. But what about world affairs? The uniform libertarian stance here is anti-interventionism, but you wouldn’t know that looking at this poll:
- 43% would like the U.S. to be more active in world affairs, as opposed to just 35% of the general public.
- 46%, however, think the U.S. makes world problems worse and just 16% believe that privacy should be given up.
- There is one group that Pew believes more closely resembles libertarian values. They represent about 5% of the population and they are typically young. They are conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on LGBT rights, immigration and are against military force. However, they also believe in affirmative action and that environmental laws are a good thing.
Now, in all fairness, libertarianism is a huge school of thought. Some of the earliest libertarians, for instance, were libertarian socialists, and they fought in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist. There’s such a thing as libertarian Marxism. The very first man to describe himself as “libertarian” was Joseph Déjacque, and he was libertarian communist.
It wasn’t until the Internet that two radical schools of libertarianism emerged — Deontological libertarianism and it’s cousin, Consequentialist libertarianism. This is about the time libertarian shifted from “socialist” to “selfish,” and those types of libertarianism have since outstretched all the other types of libertarianism; in part because of Friedman and the 80s, and in part because of the radical success of the southern strategy.
At present, “libertarian” no longer means a revolutionary fighting for egalitarianism, freedom, and a flat society in the vein of Nestor Makhno and the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo. Present day libertarians are selfish bigots who have their views informed by the themepark version of Ayn Rand (who utterly despised them), and people who are too ashamed to publicly admit they voted for the Party of Ted Cruz.
Which is sort of what we liberals have been thinking all along.