Libertarians are neither right wing nor left wing.

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Libertarians are simply pragmatic conservatives who have a moral focus on non-interference by the government, according to George Lakoff. That makes them solid right wingers.

The Political Compass and The Worlds Smallest Political Quiz claim to work with two axes, but they really have only divided one axis, freedom, into two arbitrary types of freedom, economic and social. However, no research shows that this division is really valid in terms of grouping like-minded people together. Literally dozens of other charts with other choices for axes have been proposed, sometimes with many axes, also with no real support. You could just as easily make a chart with equality divided into two axes, social and economic. Or you could use Amartya Sen's division of freedom into two axes: development versus abandonment. These unscientific classifications are merely propaganda: for example, the drawing of the 5 sections with equal areas and libertarianism on top overemphasizes libertarianism. The "2d" explanation of the quiz is not there to give people 'a better representation of peoples' opinions than the old 1-dimensional "left-right" spectrum.' It is to place an extremist position "on the map" to make it look as credible as other positions.

Pew Research has found 11% of Americans that self-identify as libertarian, but also finds that their views are very similar to those of Americans at large. By reducing the group to 5%, they get a better fit to conservative economic views and liberal social views, but of those "many members of this group diverge from libertarian thinking on key issues, including about half who say affirmative action is a good thing and that stricter environmental laws are worth the cost.". So about 2% might pass a libertarian purity test based on those issues. And that's after more than 60 years of continual propaganda funded by billions of dollars (from the Kochs and their network of corporate and plutocratic funders.)

But the real question is whether libertarians really have liberal social views. They do (mostly) on a very few topical issues that they trumpet. But there are a large number of big liberal social issues that they generally (or very frequently) oppose:

  • democracy
  • public service
  • equality
  • racism
  • protective regulation (especially for drugs, rather than prohibition or unregulated use)
  • the list goes on and on....


In search of libertarians [More...]
"In some cases, the political views of self-described libertarians differ modestly from those of the general public; in others there are no differences at all [...] None of the seven groups identified by the 2014 political typology closely resembled libertarians, and, in fact, self-described libertarians can be found in all seven."
John Kenneth Galbraith on Conservatism. [More...]
"The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness..."
Moral Foundations (2 links)
Pseudoscience from Jonathan Haidt and Ravi Iyer. Sometimes used to claim libertarians have various characteristics. Peer review does not make the psychology of personality assessment any less a pseudoscience.
Moral Politics: What Conservatives Know That Liberals Don't (book)
Nolan Chart And World's Smallest Political Quiz (4 links)
Propaganda tools used for outreach by The Advocates for Self-Government and others. A pretend political science classification that looks only at two bogus conceptions of "liberty".


Without coming out and saying it, it’s easy to see how libertarianism, despite all the heavy-handed rhetoric about freedom, is fundamentally a right wing authoritarian philosophy... Getting the government out isn’t about rejecting authority, but making individuals of the proper sex (male), proper race (white), and proper socio-economic status (property owners and independent businessmen) the ruling classes of a series of small societies.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
Slapping a few admirable ideas about legalizing vice crimes on top of a larger philosophy that’s about restoring “local” control—i.e. making it easier for white men to directly oppress everyone else in their community without interference—doesn’t make them pro-freedom. It just makes the cover story sound better.
Amanda Marcotte, "A small round of applause for decent Time Magazine writing"
People seem to be faintly drawn to the idea that there might be more political dimensions than just "left" and "right". Bullshit. Being in favour of allowing other people to take drugs, shag each other or read what they want isn't a political position; it's what we call "manners", "civilisation" or "humanity", depending on the calibre of yokel you're trying to educate. The political question of interest splits fair and square down a Left/Right axis: either you think that it is more important to provide a decent life for everyone in the world, or you think it is more important to preserve the rights of people who own property. You can hum and haw as much as you like about whether the two are necessarily incompatible, or whether the one is instrumental to the other, or what constitutes a "decent life" anyway, but when you've finished humming and hawing, I'm still gonna be asking you the question, and your answer to it will determine whether or not we're gonna have an argument.
Daniel Davies,, December 31, 2002
But at base, the test of someone's politics is simple; if their political aim is to advance all of humanity, they're on our side, while if they have an overriding constraint that the current owners of property must always be satisfied first, they're playing for the opposition.
Daniel Davies, D-Squared Digest, May 21, 2003
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
John Kenneth Galbraith, "John Kenneth Galbraith on Conservatism."