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I hereby expel Bill Maher from the libertarian movement

I agree with Todd Andrew Barnett: Maher is not now and never was a libertarian–not even close to it. Why he insists on self-describing himself this way is a mystery, but it’s inaccurate. He is smart but ignorant and thinks he knows more than he does; he thinks that snideness and condescension equals intelligence. He thinks he’s better than Bush and his ilk: he’s not. He’s for drug legalization: whoopee. I recall he was cold on Bush; then warmed up when he thought the Iraq war might work; then got cold again. He’s for higher taxes, for Obama, for socialized medicine. He’s vile and crude, and unjustifiably snide and condescending. And he’s no libertarian.

Maher: you’re out!

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • twv June 19, 2009, 2:31 pm

    His treatment of Ron Paul was odd, or oddly revealing. He had Ron on his show early, and raked him over the coals for (what was it?) wanting to get rid of the CIA and such. But then Ron upstaged the wolves-in-sheepsuits at the first Republican debate, and Maher fawned all over Ron Paul.

    Maher might be approachable, if his close friend were Penn and not Ann Coulter.

    I enjoyed his movie, Religilous, and his novel of a decade or more ago. I think Maher is one of those people who defines “libertarian” completely in the context of community and familial institutions, and not government and firms. When it comes to the marketplace, he wants the government on top, regulating. It’s a fairly common perspective. It was probably mine when I was a teenager.

  • Eric Dondero June 20, 2009, 5:42 am

    Another candidate for expulsion: State Rep. Jeff Wood of Wisconsin.

    Wood serves in the Legislature as an Independent. He’s a former Libertarian Party member, who actually worked on the Ed Clark for President campaign in 1980.

    Well, seems the guy has had his third drunk driving conviction. Worse, he just sided with the Democrats to greatly raise taxes and spending in support of Gov. Doyle’s budget. He was the decisive vote in a 50-50 State House.

    All Libertarians, Paleos, Pro-War, Conservative-Liberts, Pro-Life Liberts, Ron Paulists, LPers, whomever, need to join together to tell Wood that he is a complete embarrassment to our movement, and to cease and desist from every calling himself a “libertarian” ever again!

    • Agorist May 4, 2010, 8:26 am

      Ah, Eric Dondero, one even less libertarian than Bill Maher. How ironic.

  • Vake July 16, 2009, 5:49 pm

    Thank you. A friend asked me why I didn’t like Bill Maher. “But he’s a libertarian, like you?” People who believe in socialized medicine (single payer, public option, mandates, etc) should NOT be allowed to call themselves libertarian.

  • Steven McDuffie August 8, 2009, 12:45 am

    Dondero, you still have the nerve to show your face online, after spanking Harry Browne gave you?

  • Matt Cockerill August 8, 2009, 2:11 am

    Eric, “pro-war” people need to stop advocating mass murder before they even think about political ideology.

  • clark August 8, 2009, 7:31 am

    “When it comes to the marketplace, he wants the government on top, regulating. It’s a fairly common perspective.” – Wouldn’t that make him a fascist?

    Maher: you’re out!

  • Steven McDuffie August 8, 2009, 8:11 am

    Eric Dondero on the Harry Browne show:

    “I can’t believe I’m in the same movement as you people!”

    Don’t worry, Eric: you aren’t.

  • Matthew August 8, 2009, 8:43 am

    This is a little unfair. Bill Maher doesn’t know what libertarianism really is, and this is why he describes himself that way – sometimes. Of course it’s not accurate.

    Bill Maher has some very appealing qualities. One, he seems genuinely interested in incorporating different viewpoints on his show. I think the way people treat Ron Paul is an excellent indication of what kind of person they are. Not that they have to vote for him to be good people, but do they give him a fair hearing, do they treat him decently. Bill Maher did.

    Sure, the first time Ron appeared on Bill’s show, Bill got sidetracked by the whole Lincoln issue. He also invited him back later, admitted it was a mistake and took the blame for it, and then gave Ron Paul a very fair hearing.

    He has also been one of the few on the left to criticize Obama on Afghanistan. He has even gotten some boos from his audience, and then scolds them for being loyal to people rather than ideas. Indeed, he got into a somewhat heated exchange with Mos Def and accused him of a double standard. And he continues to invite a wide range of views on his show, from Ron Paul and Penn Jillette and Drew Carey to Gloria Steinem and Barney Frank. No, he’s not a libertarian – never was – but he seems honest.

    There are plenty of things that bother me about Bill Maher, such as how he has gone whole hog in swallowing the global warming buncombe. But I don’t ever remember him warming up to Bush, and I think that ultimately he is a decent fellow with some regrettable statist beliefs. But he admits he knows nothing about economics (although he should then desist from having opinions on the issue), and I feel that he is the kind of guy who could be converted, or at least pulled in a more libertarian direction. An approach like this won’t accomplish that.

  • David K. Meller August 8, 2009, 2:14 pm

    Most people nowadays are libertarian on some public issues, especially those where they are personally impacted by government abuse of power, less libertarian on others, and unfortunately statist and collectivist on a few, mostly where they don’t yet see the free market and private property providing better alternatives. While Bill Maher would be welcome as a full-fledged libertarian, if and when he outgrows his remaining statism and collectivism, his inconsistancy or disagreements should not, and cannot, keep us from growing our movement. If he agrees with us about something, e.g. drug legalization, well, every little bit helps!

    We should do a lot better bringing people IN our movement, rather than purging them–and often their friends and colleagues–out, if we showed them where they were clearly right being libertarian, and expanding these observations to encourage awareness that the same faults that which they decry about government (mis)management and/or ownership apply to an equal, if not greater degree about issues where they still trust government.

    People in the media often have a long standing personal and vested interest in the continuation of (certain) government policies, which they often advocate, but we should provide food for thought for many others, especially in issues such as the wretched assault on the energy industry called cap-and-trade, “Obamacare”–socialized medicine–and President Obama’s involvement with the growing war in Afghanistan–and perhaps Pakistan.

    Let us start to work harder to discover and pull in more libertarians, and stop driving people out.

    David K. Meller

  • Chrissay August 8, 2009, 4:47 pm

    Understand the vexation, but David Meller is 100% right.

  • Brian August 8, 2009, 5:01 pm

    Libertarian philosophy is a recognition of the self-ownership of each person. The non-aggression axiom is simply a consequence of this.

    It is wrong to initiate aggression.

    Government is a coercive monopoly. It doesn’t matter if the ends it is employed towards are desirable, coercion is a violation of the self-ownership of others.

    Therefore, to advocate ANY government is to advocate coercion (the degree of coercion is irrelevant) and such an advocation completely disqualifies one from validly claiming the title “libertarian”.

    So of course Bill Maher isn’t a libertarian. Neither is the Libertarian Party, Ron Paul, or any of you posting here that subscribe to some form of “minarchy”. Government is incompatible with liberty and one cannot be a libertarian and an advocate of government. The two concepts are logically and morally antithetical.

    Of course, there is room for debate within libertarianism over complex issues like the exact requirements for homesteading and whether abortion is an aggression (for example), but to say that people who favor various forms of coercion are “libertarian” simply to build a “big tent” is intellectually dishonest.

  • Steven McDuffie August 8, 2009, 10:20 pm

    Big tent libertarianism has given us Bob Barr as an LP candidate and Neil Boortz as the unofficial chief national spokesman for libertarianism. David Meller is 100% wrong.

    It used to be jokingly said that libertarians are Republicans who like to smoke pot. Now, because of attitudes like Mellers, this is literally true.

    • David K. Meller May 6, 2010, 1:18 pm

      Dear Mr. McDuffie,

      100 wrong about what? I wholeheatedly agree with you that people–especially in public life–embrace liberty to varying degrees, and regarding (often inconsistantly) different issues.

      Bob Barr was a perfectly adaquate Libertarian in a Presidential race whose winning candidates would be either Barack Obama or John McCain. Even in areas where he shared some of McCain’s prejudices and misconceptions, especially in foreign policy, would he actually be WORSE than a President McCain? I don’t think so! I also think that Barr’s Presidency would have been a distinct improvement over what we have seen of the big B-O, even if he was no Ron Paul!

      Neil Boortz is unfortunately enamored of a ridiculous GOP proposal to replace the Income tax with a National Sales tax. This position is utterly incompatible with the libertarian insight that taxation is theft, and he is no libertarian on this issue! On other issues, however, he is, and has been quite libertarian, and I am grateful for what he has contributed to the growth of our movements. He is no spokesman for the libertarian movement as a whole, but when he speaks out on everything from drug decriminalization to balancing the government’s budget, to deregulation of business and industry, he is certainly worthwhile to listen to.

      What was I wrong about? I agree with you that most of these people need improvement in their understanding and presentation of liberty, but I don’t think that being a small club of anarchists talking to ourselves is a productive use of our time.

      Wishing you…

      David K. Meller

    • Joseph Fetz May 5, 2013, 2:47 pm

      Steven, that is what Libertarians gave you (as in the Libertarian Party), not libertarianism. To be sure, I don’t know very many libertarians that belong to the LP, and while I was once a member, I soon left because of that fact.

      About the only way that I can describe my experience with the LP is that it was much like when I joined the End The Fed movement– which began as a result of Ron Paul’s campaign– only to find that I was surrounded by Greenbackers.

  • Brian August 9, 2009, 7:20 pm

    Stephan, I just recently found your site, following the link from the LRC blog about Bill Maher. Though I’ve appreciated and respected your work for some time (“Against Intellectual Property” caused a significant paradigm shift in my thinking), I hadn’t previously checked out your site. Now that I’ve found it, I’ve been browsing for a bit.

    And found:

    On some level I agree with your point about imprecision of language. On another level, I’m still convinced that language is arbitrary and intent is what matters. Haven’t fully made up my mind on that yet.

    But I would like to re-evaluate my prior comment since I did interchange “coercion” and “aggression”. The concept of government as a “coercive monopoly” is such a ubiquitous anarcho-libertarian idea that I had simply assumed the negative connotation of the word “coercion” when I used it.

    Now I’m not sure if the use of that word is as accurate as I’d desire. Obviously, the issue at hand is initiated aggression. But how best to communicate that?

    Is “aggression” alone succinct? Is not “initiated” redundant?

    Is “aggressive monopoly” a desirable replacement? Or is the juxtaposition of “coercive” and “monopoly” enough to correctly imply the form of coercion as aggressive?

  • Bill Baker November 19, 2009, 5:17 pm

    He’s what is called a “Left libertarian”, which is often synonymous in some minds with “Libertarian Socialism”. Though Libertarian Socialism{like Noam Chomsky for example} is just a sub-catgory of left libertarianism. Bill is more simply a ‘Left Libertarian”. Look those two terms up, google em or wiki em or look elsewhere.
    Bill is a Libertarian, just nnot one of these market obsessed types or one of these types who’s rhetoric is confined to “gov’t- only evil, socialism- neccaserily means stalin and totalitarianism, and all that matters if free market”. That is what this pseudo-liberttarianism quirky cousing of conservatism of the libertarian party these days is pretty much confined to.
    I myself co nsider myself a Left Libertarian as well, and we are tire dof the b.s. of the pseudo-libertarian north americna libertarian party, who actually stole the term, the term was first used in the 1800’s by social anacrhists{in fact the firt use of it was by a social anarchist} and people with views like geolibertarianism and others.

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