Misunderstanding Libertarianism
By Daily Bell Staff - September 09, 2016

Thom Hartmann exposes libertarian philosophy for the billionaire scam that it is …  With the major party candidates’ negative ratings at historic highs, millions of Americans are looking to third-party candidates, with libertarian Gary Johnson polling highest among third-party candidates currently. But do libertarians and progressives really see eye to eye on the big issues, as Johnson would like Bernie Sanders supporters to think? According to Thom Hartmann, not at all.   – AlterNet

Famous liberal commentator Thom Hartmann recently appeared on an RT program to  rebut the idea that “progressives” and “libertarians” in many ways shared the same political philosophy.

He called the Libertarian Party a “scam” and said it was a front for the billionaire Koch brothers and that those who labeled themselves as libertarians were essentially allowing themselves to be manipulated by the very wealthy.


“… You know, big business doesn’t care if gay people get married, they don’t care if people smoke pot. They’ll give you the social issues, but… the bottom line for the Libertarian Party on every issue—whether it’s Medicare, Social Security, public roads…—[is] let’s privatize [them or]… do away [with them].”

When asked if he thinks that libertarians honestly don’t believe in the key principles libertarians are said to hold about being fiscally conservative and socially liberal, Hartmann’s answer is brutally on point:  “I think there are probably some libertarians who don’t understand the history of the Libertarian Party or, you know, are basically functionally useful idiots for billionaires like the Koch brothers.”

Hartmann seems to believe that the Libertarian Party is fully representative of libertarianism. In fact, the Koch brothers brand of libertarianism has elements that correspond to Hartmann’s criticism.

The Koch brothers, for instance, helped found the preeminent libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. This group often offers sociopolitical and economic solutions that seek compromises between prevailing government orthodoxy and free-market solutions.

The Koch Brothers’ increasing influence over Cato so infuriated libertarian economist Murray Rothbard that he quit, separating Misesian libertarianism from Cato’s sometimes more accommodating version, a division that has lasted ever since.

Hartmann simplified libertarianism as a “me first” movement while indicating that progressivism was a “we first” sociopolitical and economic philosophy.

In fact,  Misesian libertarianism represents a persuasive economic system of free-market thinking that goes back hundreds and even thousands of years. The Ludwig von Mises Society has compiled an enormous body of literature on this larger perspective.

For instance, the Misesian version of libertarianism notes that communities that have little in the way of compulsive government often tend to organize themselves in religious or at least spiritual ways.

And a case can be made that whole cultures – like ancient, “originalist” cultures in Australia or the Amer-Indians of North America – were organized around voluntary communal imperatives that are far closer to Misesian doctrines than the viewpoint that Hartmann offers.

A fundamental tenet of modern libertarianism is voluntarism. Thus a practicing libertarian could be part of an extremely structured society with many religious and public features, so long as the underlying participation was voluntary. (In other words, at the most basic level, an individual could leave if he didn’t wish to comply.) “We” and “I” are not mutually exclusive.

Why would anyone want to hold a different point of view – or argue for coercion (and its corollary brutality) – as a personal philosophy? In fact, there is a reason that libertarianism has become increasingly popular in the past 20 years. That has to do with the Internet, which has allowed people to make up their own minds about what libertarianism means and what it stands for.

Conclusion: Don’t many people, once they understand such a profound and even incandescent viewpoint, tend to agree? It seems so to us. Is that why Hartmann misrepresented it?

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  • Charlie Primero

    “The Libertarian Party does not represent the majority of Libertarians”.

    When the Republican Party stopped representing the majority of American conservatives, they revolted.

    Unfortunately, Libertarians are too autisticly lost in Theory Land to pull off anything that actually matters in the real world existing around them.

    • stevelabianca

      Another ignorant commentary which fails to distinguish the “is” from the “ought”.

      Most knowledgeable, thoughtful libertarians DO know the difference and are well equipped to speak in such terms of what is and what ought to be, as well as crafting a strategy to get from here to there.

  • Libertarian Jerry

    What would one expect from a Progressive(socialist) such as Thom Hartmann. People of his ilk have had their way for over 100 years. The Progressives have their income tax,paper money,central banking,large government regulatory state,welfare state and all the other apparatus of a centralized government bureaucratic society written into law. Never mind that the nation is bankrupt,hopelessly in debt and the currency is losing purchasing power to the point of worthlessness. Along comes libertarian ideas that for decades were either ignored,ridiculed or marginalized. Libertarians are not “me too” Republicans who go along to get along. Libertarians want to tear down,dismantle and reconstruct the current status quo and replace it with an objective and rational society of liberty without the coercive influence of the philosophies of a collectivist like Thom Hatmann.
    In other words, Libertarianism is a threat to the world views of the Thom Hartmanns of this world and,according to Mr.Hartmann,must be destroyed by any means.

  • Praetor

    Psycho-the-(rapist)! Sorry, but that’s what I think of Thom Hartmann. A commie by any other name.

    The regressive’s always have their demon, and for Hartmann its the Koch brothers and all other rich people involved in politics on the so called other side of the aisle. Of course, Hartmann thinks Soros is just great.

    The fact, the reality is, their all the same. Bigger and bigger government, because the un-washed masses need to be controlled.

    Progressives democrats republicans socialists liberals conservatives green red white blue, these be the same, and the true ‘PARTY’ name, communist monarch collective party. Their answer to all of humanities ills, more and more government.

    Thom Hartmann another psycho of the collective one party!!!

  • Werner Ende

    What am I? What is my individual philosophy:
    I had not any rights when I was born!
    During all my live I had and have to fight for my rights.
    Remark: nobody has any rights, may they be natural, religious, given by the state or declared by yourself.
    As Max Stirner told us: you must fight for your rights during all your live.
    To be free you must fight for:
    your living, to stay alive, to keep your individuality.
    to own your body, your mind and everything that makes you an individual human being without any restrictions.
    to keep everything you made with your brain and your hands
    to stay doing everything with your body and unlimited free to think everything and express everything. The later being restricted by “The Golden Rule“.
    As long as you do respect these rules of people and you do not violate any of his rights you are free to do everything(“The Golden Rule“
    There are many people who call themselves libertarians and disagree with one of these rules. There are e.g. members of religious organizations e.g. catholics who engage in propagating their collectivist, supressive rules, who do not respect the individuality of their children and force them to follow their religious rules and many others do accept a “nachtwächter“ state …. (minarchists)
    There is a big potpourri of libertarians or so called libertarians who tolerate everything and nothing and there are a lot between and very few people like you and me who try to stay free and to live according the standards of *Max Stirner * who wrote more than 150 years ago in
    “Der Einzige und sein Eigentum“ about property and individuality. remark: do forget his crazy “Verein“ but keep everything else.

  • Heywood Jablome

    Hartmann, is nothing more than a socialist water carrier for the proponents of more and bigger interference from government, and all the behaviour modification that comes with it through the progressive education system, media propaganda and coercive government rule and regulation, Anyone who espouses the true tenets of libertarian philosophy knows the difference between the reality and the sophistry of people like the Koch brothers and Gary Johnson, neither of which are libertarian supporters, this is just the extension of the original hijacking of the tea party types who like to call themselves libertarians, it is a falsehood, His bloviating is even more annoying than Bill Maher, but just as transparent and smarmy.

    • comrade

      Socialism , the far right have blackened socialism
      to the extent that most people believe it to be fascism ,
      when in fact capitalism and communism
      are fascist, kettle and pot both black. THE END

      • W. S.

        That is why the state began to legislate against “Trusts”… But like in 1907, when one section of the population (the rich) said they’d bail out the banking system, to save the poor benighted souls at the bottom of the economic heap (and those at the very top) but in exchange, they wanted the levers of power – the government caved… (the Fed came in on the back of it, just 6 years later, and Income Tax, reared its ugly head again.)
        JP Morgan, Rockefellor, Baker, Seif, Warburg, and Rothschild, all got the reins of power.
        But Socialism, is to Communism, what a baker is to bread…You can’t have one without the other, because Socialism, takes from those who use their god-given talents, and gives to those who are either too lazy, or intellectually challenged… The trouble often is telling the difference between the two.

  • comrade

    Libertarian philosophy is about a rich mans GAIN,

    • robt

      Marxist philosophy is about envy, theft, sloth, and treason. No wonder it’s so appealing to the masses.
      But one rich man can feed thousands who work for him that would otherwise starve.

      • comrade

        The rich man would also starve without the many thousands.

      • comrade

        Communism is a Jewish concept the obverse of capitalism
        both enslave the masses to make the few wealthy.

    • Tom Tom


      • comrade

        Class system is the rot along with patriarchy and the Jewish bible
        the end

    • Brady Mosher

      Libertarianism (Latin: liber, “free”) is a collection of political philosophies that uphold liberty. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association, and the primacy of individual judgment.[1][2] Libertarianism has been applied as an umbrella term to a wide range of political ideas through modern history.

      Libertarians generally share a skepticism of authority; however, they diverge on the scope of their opposition to existing political and economic systems. Various schools of libertarian thought offer a range of views regarding the legitimate functions of state and private power, often calling to restrict or to dissolve coercive social institutions.

      • comrade

        Freedom of choice YEAH,
        tell that to the peoples of the middle east,Vietnam,Chile,
        native peoples around the world, libertarians live in a bubble of
        imperialism, upstairs downstairs philosophy .THE END

  • georgesilver

    Libertarian Party two words that seem poles apart. I like to think of myself as firstly an individual. I do not need a ‘party’ unless it’s fun and a get together for free thinking individuals. The whole point of being an individual is that you can be free to associate with people and ideas that appeal and are beneficial to all.
    Once you start having a structured ‘party’ you fall into the same old trap of rules and a heirachy. Libertarian Party smacks of the same old system dressed in different clothes.

  • georgesilver

    OK confession time. My real thoughts. We all enter life at a point when the “game” has been going on for a long time and we all depart life with the “game’ still going on.
    Where we enter determines our scope of action. If we are lucky and born with intelligence we soon realise that to succeed we must play the game better than those around us. This doesn’t mean we will be detrimental to the people around us. I should imagine that most of the people that read the Daily Bell are similar whether they admit it or not. Some people may consider this action as selfish but I maintain that we should all act in a manner of selfishness. It is only when you do act and do things in self-interest and operate with other people in the same mindset that true honesty occurs and we deal with each other on an even playing field.

    • autonomous

      Self-interest can be distorted into controlling behavior, e.g. Ayn Rand, and develop into a cultic movement. Even Rothbard had egoistic tendencies. People with exceptional intelligence are subject to temptations to use it to lord over others just as are those with exceptional looks, tallness, physical strength, or psychological prowess. Libertarian politics is an oxymoron; the only truly libertarian plank in an election would be: Resolved that, if elected, I will attempt to dismantle government.

    • W. S.

      Isn’t that what the “Market” is all about… People acting in their own self-interest… Selling at the best price they can get, and buying at the best price they can get.. The difference between the two, is that some, are educated far better than others. THEY are more aware of the system’s rules. THEY are closer to the power structure. THEY are the ones who have friends in high places, and THEY are conditioned from an early age to be entrepreneurial, take calculated risks, and enjoy the benefits of their success…But they also expect to lead, and to achieve.
      The problem is not the system, the problem is that we can’t as a society force a horse to drink…We can only lead it to the trough.
      Like many from my social milieu, I grew up not really having the benefits of an excellent education, just a desire to do things that people from my social milieu didn’t do. But without all the benefits of location, circle of acquaintances, and education, it has been a long hard slog.

  • DrDean

    Two main political parties, a central bank and bigger Government. That has been the Western Worlds philosophy collectively for decades IMO. In short, centralization. In its many forms. Again, and again. And again.

  • Steve

    Simple tyranny isn’t enough for the dark side. It also assaults the cognitive ability of people through the distortion and twisting of language. Predation is easier when the victim is cognitively comatose. They seek to not only ban freedom, but to destroy people’s ability to even think about freedom. Beware the state wielding crony capitalist, who is in fact the anti-capitalist. Who uses the state to destroy “free” markets, and to swindle away infrastructure and call it “privatization”. What is “private” about a state enabled limited liability zombie posing as a “person” despite being a corporation?

    • Patrick Perry

      Well put Steve, double speak protected by punishment of thought crimes, either through peer policing (get the cows to police themselves) or career destruction. ‘and through pharmacological solutions they will learn to love their servitude’. I’m afraid that this attempt at civilization is doomed, maybe the next will overcome the overlords.

      • Steve

        The times they are a changing. Each person that comes to understand the reality of self-sovereignty becomes a seed to a new tomorrow. Plant the seed in the right soil and see what grows…. But by all means plant that seed, regardless! Given the choices I will always choose life.

    • Don Duncan

      Tyranny begins with each person, when that person surrenders sovereignty, self enslaves. Rulers can physically force but not mentally force. Self denunciation is required for tyranny. Each slave must take his share of the blame.

      • Steve

        I do agree. However, I think the choice is mostly unconscious. The young child upon first awakening to self awareness finds itself in a position of dependency. And forces in its culture do what they can to postpone or prevent maturity, especially if the parents lack awareness and offer poor education. Often the discovery of self sovereignty must be created ex-nihilo and who has the will to step out “alone”? But maybe this is the place to note that according to new understandings of science and old mysticism, “I” and “we” are ultimately the same essence. Truly to harm one’s neighbor is to harm “oneself”.

  • HuizeMeenk Holland

    As a result of reading your recent articles I am wondering if there is any evidence the recent explosion in North Korea was in any way nuclear. I know that sniffer planes are active but I doubt any further information about this will be published.

  • disqus_QZX8ENhLyb

    Thom Hartmann is to me a typical collectivist/communitarian/communist/mercantilist/monarchist/socialist/”whateverist.” Their solution to a well-ordered society is FORCE. Everyone of them advocates EXIMCOGOVFOR [EXternally-IMposed COercive GOVerning FORce]. Not a one advocates SELF-GOVERNMENT: each individual’s controlling himorherself.

    I have thought for years that their trouble is they are mentally deficient. They don’t seem to be able to go from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 to step 4, etc. IMHO they can’t mentally conceive the eventual consequences of that which they advocate. Their brains seem to stall or lock-up immediately after step 1. And they never seem to BE AWARE OR, ACKNOWLEDGE, OR ADMIT FAILURE of their hare-brained schemes.

    They can appear “to be “brilliant” when following a script, but take-away the teleprompter and they’re lost.

    • Tom Tom


  • Tom Tom

    In fact, if they don’t agree on a lot, at least both libertarians and progressives say they’re anti-war. Even if the Obomber did destroy Libya, Syria, and Yemen and now lots of folks realize both parties are really crony-corporate controlled.

    Honestly, at this point it won’t matter who we vote for.

  • LIBIntOrg

    For info on world Libertarians and fans see

  • mary

    “…separating Misesian libertarianism from Cato’s sometimes more accommodating version…”

    Cato is accommodating? Exactly what is that supposed to mean? They were co-opted by the glitterati in DC. All they care about is the cooool social issues–gay is cool these days, and of course legal mj–and represent that as all there is to libertarianism. On the most important issues, war, education and central banking, they are statist. They are faux libs. To call the “accommodating” is truly idiotic.

    The Hartmann-type attacks on libertarians being selfish and only out for themselves tend to work because many if not most libertarians are men stuck in a teenage mentality which can be best described as, “F* you. I’m gonna do what I wanna do.” That’s the fact and why Marshall Fritz started The Advocates for Self Government. He saw that most libertarians come off as childish, needlessly argumentative and that they alienated the people around them. Fritz was essentially trying to have a floating charm school for libertarians. To this day, The Advocates does this necessary work, but libertarians by and large don’t support the organization, or even know about it, probably because they don’t see how their childish behavior damages any chance of reaching their goals.

    Here’s an example: I’ve recently come across two libertarian celebrity-wanna-bes who realized they can get more hits and web traffic by attacking other libertarian celebrities than attacking politicians and the msm. One even says so on his webpage. Do they care that they are nasty, argumentative and hurting the advancement of libertarianism? Not one bit. They love wallowing in the mud. Gotta get those likes, ya know.

    That jackass Portly Porter Stansberry is another example of the childishness. He rants on and on about how half the US population doesn’t pay taxes. This is ridiculous, demonstrable nonsense and nothing could be further from the truth. What he should say is that half of working people do not pay 1040 income taxes. For the working poor, who make up an increasing percentage of the population, their FICA taxes (which are INCOME taxes, too) are higher than their 1040 taxes. We all are raped by an astounding tax burden all through the economy and most of these taxes are regressive. Portly should be talking about how taxation hurts the working poor, instead. But that won’t sell his newsletters, so why tell the truth?

    Libertarianism is so much more than “I’m gonna do what I wanna do,” but most libertarians just can’t grow up to notice.

  • Don Duncan

    “…the key principles of libertarianism…”? There is only one key (fundamental) principle: NAP.
    The “we” is made up from the “l”. Sacrifice the individual, sacrifice the group. A violation of an individual’s right is a violation of all rights of everyone, in principle.