Utne Blogs > Politics

The Online Libertarian University

by Will Wlizlo


Tags: liberalism, libertarians, LearnLiberty, webinars, politics, Will Wlizlo,

american-flagSometimes in the midst of partisan trench warfare and the 24-hour media spin-cycle, it’s hard to remember that our de facto two-party system and our country were founded on a fresh and edifying principle: liberalism. Both Democrats and Republicans misappropriate the concepts of classic liberalism, a set of tenets boosting individual liberties and laissez-faire economics.

As you read the previous sentences, you undoubtedly started recalling very specific images and ideas. Tea Party. Social Darwinism. Big Government. Ron Paul. Don’t tread on me. But there are compelling (and swiftly forgotten) philosophical, economic, and moral ideas underpinning even the most visible manifestations of liberalism, the speakers at LearnLiberty.org collectively argue. In an attempt to dispel pervasive misconceptions of classic liberalism, LearnLiberty has started producing a number of informational webinars—at worst they’re surreptitious, at best educational, and either way didactic.

Progressives be warned: LearnLiberty is a side-project of the Institute of Humane Studies, a non-profit which has received financial support and leadership stints from the much-demonized Koch family. That being said, many of the site’s webinars are given by academics, hailing from Rhodes, Duquesne University, George Mason University, and Harvard, among other institutions. More importantly, when presenting “ideas of a free society”, the lecturers’ arguments are often calm and cogent—a far cry from the populist, incendiary tactics of cable news.

Try this exercise: Ask yourself what a libertarian is, brainstorm for about 30 seconds, and then compare to the video below. Now who sounds irrational?

 

(Thanks, Hit & Run.)

Image by joewcampbell, licensed under Creative Commons. 

rodeen
4/6/2011 10:47:03 AM

Why would you say that Ayn Rand is morally bankrupt?


alan gornik
3/18/2011 11:48:47 AM

So Pete: I just want to understand your reasoning. The video expressed that Libertarians favor a government in which individuals are trusted and empowered to make economic decisions for themselves. You go to the extreme to say that is "morally bankrupt." How so?


alan gornik
3/18/2011 10:38:21 AM

I appreciate your posting this. The labels we are all using and/or putting on each other often get in the way of being able to have dialogs to achieve understanding of the true positions being taken. This video is a good expression of the libertarian point of view, which I basically endorse. I'll be interested to see what other "Utne Readers" think of this philosophy as expressed here.


pete hart
3/18/2011 10:01:39 AM

The only useful thing I learned from this article is that no traditional Democrat, Progressive or "leftie" should be calling themselves liberal. Libertarian philosophy is really no different from Ayn Rand's Objectivism and is morally bankrupt and totally unworkable. If everyone practiced this philosophy, we'd all be at each others' throats and we'd be killing off the planet as we know it even faster than we already are.