Rachel Maddow the Accidental Libertarian

I just recently watched The Daily Show‘s interview of Rachel Maddow from last April (embedded below) and couldn’t help but comment. She proposed two rules for public discourse: 1. “Don’t lie” and 2. “Don’t threaten to shoot people or encourage the shooting of people.” I was surprised – Maddow and I rarely end up in agreement, yet I couldn’t agree more that the world would be a much better place if everyone stuck to these two rules when speaking in public forums. I knew, of course, that Maddow could not possibly be serious or had not thought too hard about her second proposal. The implications of that rule, though perhaps not immediately obvious, are staggering.

Let’s try a few:

  • “The United States should invade Iran” –> Soldiers should be instructed to shoot Iranians and should follow these orders.

Therefore, no one may (under Maddow’s rules) advocate the invasion of Iran (or any other country for that matter).

  • “The possession/sale of cocaine should be prohibited” –> Police officers ought to find people who possess/sell cocaine and arrest them. If these people resist the police, as they would any other home invader or kidnapper, the police should shoot the resisters.

Again, the principle is clear: no one may advocate the prohibition of the possession or sale of cocaine (or any other drug).

  • “The federal government ought to provide healthcare to all US citizens” –> The federal government should collect taxes to pay for the healthcare of all US citizens. Those citizens who refuse to pay taxes, rather than simply not being provided with the services offered (as it works with any business or voluntary organization), should be found and arrested by police officers. As above, if these people resist, the police should shoot the resisters.

Just as with the other examples, this principle implies that no one may advocate the government provision of healthcare (or any other such service, e.g. Social Security, Medicare, etc).

As the above examples make clear, the principle of not encouraging the shooting of people means that no one may advocate that the State does anything at all. For every action that the State takes necessarily depends on the threat of shooting those who disobey and resist. What Maddow has said is that the only legitimate position to take in public discourse is libertarianism! That’s a principle I can get behind.

Unfortunately, as much as I would love to see Rothbardianism make its way onto MSNBC, I fear that Maddow broke her first rule of discourse when she gave the second.


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Rachel Maddow
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