Getting to know your libertarian friend

Jay Stooksberry
Mar 1, 2017 · 7 min read


Everybody has that one friend. That friend who lingers and lurks in social media, quietly waiting to pounce on you whenever you post something mildly political. The guy who — no matter what your political leaning is — will explain to you in excruciating detail why you are most likely wrong about literally everything. And it doesn’t matter who is in office: this friend is perpetually pissed off at whomever is running the show.

That friend is, most likely, a libertarian, and — ugh! — just the thought of him is exhausting.

Yeah, I said him. Four out of five libertarians are dudes. The world of libertarianism is a veritable sausage fest.

But I digress. Despite his quirkiness, your libertarian friend is not a bad guy. Typically, he’s hard working, well read, and owns enough firearms that — when the end-times arrive — you’ll be happy to be on his good side.

So what’s the best way to handle your libertarian friend? As a libertarian myself, I am here to offer some helpful tips and best practices. Though not exhaustive, this starter kit will help you get through some of the more tumultuous episodes that often arise in midst of your friendship with a libertarian.

Clear your calendar before you engage with a libertarian

Time management is a must when discussing anything with a libertarian. If you have stuff to do, your best bet is to just walk away. Your to-do list will thank you.

Or, if you have already commenced, just to say, “You’ve given me a lot to think about. Now, I need to get back to work.” Libertarians respect work ethic, and will likely back down by expressing the same sentiment. The last thing a libertarian wants you to think of him is unemployed.

If you do decide to move forward with the conversation, Godspeed! Consider yourself warned that a lengthy and spirited exchange is impending. You are about to be bombarded with a litany of economic terminology, case law, and a not-so-abridged history of government boobery.

You will likely hear about many authors and thinkers who you probably have never heard of before: Rothbard, Mises, Hayek, and Bastiat just to name a few. It’s ok if you haven’t read any of these authors, because we’re about to give you the Cliff’s Notes version of Austrian economics. If we have time, we’ll get into the Chicago school as well.

Actually, it’s best that you just play dumb; quoting these guys makes libertarians feel warm and fuzzy, so we might be easier to appease later in the conversation. Plus, also, many of us haven’t really gotten past page 35 in most of these books, because — let’s be honest — they can be a bit dry. We mostly hold onto our limited knowledge of libertarian philosophers for the off chance that “Who wrote the ‘Road to Serfdom’?” will come up as a trivia question when we are at the bar.

Think of the word “statist” as a term of endearment

You have not officially debated a libertarian until you have been called a statist. The word “statist” is our favorite pejorative. The word usually comes bundled when we point out your unhealthy infatuation with roads and infrastructure. (Seriously — get a room!)

However, using the word statist is often the equivalent of the “race card” strategy in the context of debate. Usually when somebody has run out of good points to make, calling somebody racist is a handy ace up the sleeve. Libertarians will do the same. When we’ve run out macroeconomic jargon to support our claims, we’ll just remind you that you are experiencing a sad case of Stockholm Syndrome — you feel affection toward your abusive captor (e.g., the State). Simply put, you’re a statist who cannot be reasoned with.

Pretty much everybody is a statist in the eyes of a libertarian. Even libertarians think other libertarians are statists, so don’t take it personally. When you have a hammer, all you can see are nails. That’s the albatross that libertarians carry with them until the day they die.

Confused about libertarianism? So are libertarians

Don’t assume that you know what the “libertarian position” on any given issue is, because — frankly — libertarians don’t know either.

If you asked five libertarians what libertarianism means to them, you will likely receive ten different answers.

Libertarianism is actually an umbrella term. Splinter cells of libertarians — all using different modifier names — exist within the libertarian movement: anarchists, minarchists, classical liberals, conservatarians, left-libertarians, agorists, and — our newest and even more annoying model — Trumpertarians. Considering how the miniscule size of the libertarian voting bloc, it seems comical how granular we are willing to get with our self-ascribed identities. This voting bloc becomes even smaller based on the fact that many libertarians think that voting is morally wrong. (But selling heroin to your kindergartener still passes moral muster for many of this same faction. Go figure!)

And libertarians most certainly don’t agree on everything. In fact, libertarians probably spend more time arguing with other libertarians than they do with any other group. My day is usually not complete until I’ve been told at least five times by other libertarians that I’m not a libertarian. It’s a daily thunder dome of ideological purity.

Want to have some fun? Log on to a random libertarian online forum, and say one of the following statements:

“Open borders is the ONLY libertarian solution to immigration.”


“Fetuses have natural rights. Abortion violates the Non-Aggression Principle.”

Pull the pin on those grenades and run for the hills. Mayhem is about to ensue. It’s going to get ugly, and I’m not talking about the profile pictures of those in the thread. Though, those will be ugly too.

Contrarian by nature, libertarianism is far from a settled science. Even science is up for argument since the scientific method likely violates the Non-Aggression Principle. (Pretty much everything violates the NAP.)

Oh, that reminds me of my next point…

Libertarians use weird words

We practically speak our own language. I like to call it “Libertarianese.” It a rich, colorful, and diverse dialect that takes some time to learn.

So here’s a crash course.

Non-Aggression Principle. Though you may not know it, but you are probably violating it right now. Just stop it. You’ve been warned. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it means because you can’t force me to. Seriously — stop it. You’re doing it again!

Muh (fill in the blank). Whatever publicly-subsidized line item you are afraid to privatize, libertarians will ultimately use it sarcastically against you. “Who will build the roads?” you ask. To which the libertarian will respond, “Muh roads!” It’s a very versatile phrase. Muh versatility!

Natural rights. Also, known as Natty Rites. (And if you’re not a beer drinker, then that joke is probably not funny.) Long story short: you have rights regardless of anything, and nobody — I repeat, nobody — can infringe upon them. And this includes the right to make bad jokes that you may or may not get.

Helicopter rides. If invited for one, don’t accept; it’s a surprise that you may not like. Also, you’ve likely stumbled into a conversation with a Trumpertarian. Your best move: say nothing and stand perfectly still. Their vision is motion sensitive, and, once set off, they will likely build a wall around you. Or throw you from a helicopter like Pinochet. Oh, dammit — I ruined the surprise.

Triggered and safe spaces. These two terms are often used in conjunction — usually to depict you as an oversensitive social justice warrior. But if you happen to say something like “taxation is the price we pay for civilization,” prepare to watch us emote wildly and scuttle back to our online discussion forums to share a screenshot of your statist blather with our fellow libertarian brethren.

Taxation is theft. We say this. A lot. It’s our version of “Make America Great Again,” except catchier. And more libertarian, despite what Trumpertarians will tell you. Also, it provokes a lot of people — the very same people who claim that “taxation is the price we pay for civilization.” And, despite our best efforts, this motto is the best we can do as a tagline in our efforts to brand libertarianism. Unfortunately, we often learn that most people seem to like being taxed because it pays for “muh (fill in the blank).” Stockholm Syndrome can be so tragic.

At the end of the day, your libertarian friend isn’t that bad. When it comes to your vision for an ideal society, he wants exactly what you want: thriving commerce, peaceful diplomacy, a balanced federal budget, robust civil liberties, and competing commodity-backed currencies. (Ok… maybe not exactly what you want, but four outta five ain’t bad, right?)

So be nice. Be patient. Hug your libertarian friend (if he lets you), and just hear him out. Who knows — you may start fancying competing commodity-backed currencies sooner than you thought possible.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store