The Right Opinion

Libertarians' Awkward Bedfellows

By John Stossel · Feb. 27, 2013

Last week, Conservative pundit Ann Coulter told me and a thousand young libertarians that we libertarians are puss- – well, she used slang for a female body part.

We were in Washington, D.C., at the Students for Liberty conference, taping my TV show, and she didn't like my questions about her opposition to gay marriage and drug legalization.

“We're living in a country that is 70 percent socialist,” she says. “The government takes 60 percent of your money. They take care of your health care, your pensions … who you can hire … and you (libertarians) want to suck up to your little liberal friends and say, oh, we want to legalize pot? … If you were a little more manly, you'd tell liberals what your position on employment discrimination is.”

We do, actually. We say employers ought to get to choose whom they hire. They created the business, so they should be allowed to discriminate against stutterers, TV hosts, old people – anyone they don't want.

But Coulter has a point.

Government rarely makes a dent in people's drug use or their ability to partner with people of their own gender.

“Seventy percent socialism” does much more harm. It kills opportunity and wrecks lives.

But Coulter doesn't just want to downplay “liberal” parts of the libertarian agenda. She opposes them.

When I asked why gays can't marry, she said, “They can – they have to marry a member of the opposite sex.”

I see why the students were annoyed by Coulter's shtick.

If Republicans were smart, they'd listen to that rising generation of young people who want government to stay not just out of the economy, but out of our personal lives, too.

Fortunately, some Republicans are onboard with that. Another of my guests was Justin Amash, congressman from Michigan.

The young libertarians admire him, in much the same way they admire Republicans like Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Jeff Flake; Gov. Gary Johnson; and new Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.

Amash focuses on government spending. He has pictures of libertarian economists like Murray Rothbard in his office, and he warns that big government – including military spending – will bankrupt America. He's not afraid to call for cuts in popular programs like Medicare, Head Start and food stamps.

After Amash's complaints about government spending, establishment Republicans in Congress kicked him off the budget committee. One said it was because of the “a–hole factor … inability to work with other members.”

I asked Amash about that.

“It might be because I wanted to balance the budget,” says Amash. “The level of government spending is so insane.”

It is. Even if the sequester cuts happen – cuts the left calls “brutal” – in eight years the feds will still spend $5.3 trillion annually … just a little less than the $5.4 trillion they will spend if no cuts are made.

The “brutal” sequester is anything but. Even the much-feared Paul Ryan budget plan would only reduce the federal debt in 2021 from the $26 trillion President Obama projects to … $23 trillion.

So with our economic house in such disarray, Coulter is right to avoid getting bogged down in fights over drugs and homosexuality. But I prefer the way Amash handled the libertarian-conservative conflict.

Michelle Montalvo of Temple University asked him to “comment on your faith and how you reconcile that with your libertarian beliefs? There are stereotypes about libertarian students, that we're Republicans who love to do drugs, (but) we're not all godless.”

Amash answered, “I'm an Orthodox Christian … and I believe that the government is a hindrance, a lot of times, to our religious liberty.” But he doesn't want government to promote Christianity. “Get government out of the way, allow people to make choices. We can't legislate morality and force everyone to agree with us.”

The young people at the conference worry about the economy. They worry less about drug use and gay sex – most have come to see those as socially acceptable.

Instead of insulting libertarians or kicking them off congressional committees, it's time for Coulter – and other Republicans – to stop suggesting that those who want the government out of their personal lives are morally suspect.

Then we can concentrate on the important things.



Eric Dondero in Angleton, Texas said:

Coulter was half-right: Gays can get married. What's to stop them from securing a corner of a public park, inviting a couple lawyers with some worked up agreement papers to sign, and inviting all their gay friends to have a Big Gay Wedding, with music, dancing, the cha cha, karaoke singing of Bette Midler and Liza Minelli classics?

Why do they need to involve the government?

I'll tell you why: GOVERNMENT HAND-OUTS! Gay marriage is all about moocherism. Getting gay partners on the government dole.

Libertarians should oppose government Gay Marriage PRECISELY for that reason.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 9:07 AM

Mindblown in Flyover USA said:

Agree with you Eric. John, I watched most of that show. I didn't see or hear anyone talking about what exactly they wanted the govt to do or not do other than the drugs and gay marriage stuff. Or what they were willing to give up in order to get the govt out of their own lives. Actually, they appeared more like a cleaner version of OWS.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 10:06 AM

Howard Last in Wyoming said:

The other big item is personnel property rights. A major item is smoking restrictions in business establishments. If a restaurant or bar owner wants to allow smoking it is no business of the government. No one forces you to patronize the establishment. Bar and restaurant owners are not stupid, if their patrons are against smoking what do you think the owners policy will be? Smoking restrictions work, just ask the waitresses that are not in the establishments anymore. BTW, I am not a smoker.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 10:56 AM

Billy in IL said:

The Gov should not be in the Marriage endorsing business. Marriage was for years a Church recognized institution, when Government realized that populations needed to increase for healthy national growth, they bestowed special recognition on Marriage, because at that time, it was through Marriage that procreation was propagated. If the Gov wants to reward or provide tax incentives for procreation to couples (I am tired of incentives to singles to have children to live off the dole), they should do so without reference to Marriage and allow the Church to retain the definition of Marriage. Why must the gov mandate what rights partners of individuals have, that should be a part of their contract, be it a church marriage contract, or a lawyers contract. As for drugs, I think the argument for gun control is the same as for drug or alcohol control - we should not legislate 'control' what is a right (though guns are the only specified right in the constitution); the only legislation law makers should be able to impose is restrictions or punishments for consequences, i.e. drink and cause a wreck, pay for all damages (why do we send people to jail when they cannot pay a fine, why not put them to work and take 50% of their pay?) Drink, smoke or shoot and cause a death, suffer the death penalty. Our laws need to be simplified and the number reduced.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Howard Last in Wyoming replied:

Billy, the governments interest in marriage to a large degree was caused by the 16th Amendment. Prior to 1913 the government basically stayed out of the marriage business. Why, because there are different tax rates for married and single.

I can't understand why if a death is cased by DUI, the criminal (what else would you call them) gets a minimum jail sentence or probation. It is not until multiple offenses, that he does serious jail time (maybe). The punishment should be the same as if he used a knife, gun or 2X4.

When the country was formed prisoners had to pay for their upkeep. This practice continued for more than 100 years. Why should the citizens be forced to pay for their upkeep now? After all what did an honest citizen do to have this expense?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

Exactly right, in many ways, folks. Reprobates are kutting pennies, when dollar downsizing of Gov is needed. Marriage belongs to the States---50, not 57, like O'Zilla thinks.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Roberto in Portugal said:

Thanks for the article.

John, Coulter likely made the comment because that is the argument Libertarians made to get drug legalization in Latin countries--don't be like weakling Americans (fofos) afraid of drugs.

For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues worldwide, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ ....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Damian in Glasgow said:

I don't understand how these are awkward bedfellows. The fact is, that if you believe in limited government, that is to say, government out of our private lives, you can't then stop and put asterisks to it. This is my problem with republicans (and democrats) is there all a bunch of hypocrites. And if they stopped bloviating for to stop and think, there heads would probably explode.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 10:30 PM

M Rick Timms MD in Georgia said:

Libertarians want small non-intrusive government.

The Tea Party wants small non-intrusive government.

But the problem occurs when they start talking....

The libertarians want to smoke pot and let the world do whatever they want until they attack us. They usually have a strange fellow like Johnson or Ron Paul leading the charge saying goofy things.

The Tea Party wants to limit government spending, but can't stop there -- and wants to get into moral issues of behavior -- beyond the simple issue of making Americans pay for Stuff. They should stop money issue and leave the moral issues up to the folks...

Clearly we live in a Judeo-Christian country, but stop trying to make us all Southern Baptists... ( nothing against Southern Baptists mind you, but it really narrows the political spectrum of conservatism ). The Tea Party and the Libertarians are one the same page with the limited role of government, but they should both ease up on the secondary issues, and have a nice life together.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 11:09 PM