Can Libertarians Breed Their Way To Success?

by John Hawkins | April 7, 2011 5:41 am

I’m all in favor of smart people breeding and I do think that over time, the higher conservative birth rate and the liberal lust for abortion will help tilt the political scales a bit our way.

Still, some people take that line of reasoning further. For example, there are apparently a few people who believe Libertarians can breed their way to political success[1].

Yesterday on Facebook, my friend Bryan Caplan made the following provocative claim:

[T]he most realistic long-run path to liberty is boosting libertarians’ Total Fertility Rate to 3.

That is to say, if libertarians have more kids than everyone else (and those kids have more kids, and so on), libertarians will eventually outnumber their foes and win the day. Bryan has made versions of the “strategic fertility” argument before, and I want to say what’s wrong with it, even if one shares Bryan’s goals and assumptions.

…Ideologies emerge, mutate, evolve, and die. In all likelihood, in another fifty or sixty years, Libertarianism of the sort Bryan and I encountered and embraced as young adults will exist only as a historical curiosity. Even if the libertarian label sticks around, the cluster of propositions it designates won’t. The term “classical-libertarian” will have to be coined to distinguish throwbacks attracted to the Libertarianism of Bryan Caplan’s youth from those attracted to whatever it is Libertarianism eventually becomes. The conception of liberty Bryan’s children will find attractive will be different from his. The conception of liberty his grandchildren find attractive will be more different still. And, despite close psychology similarity to their grandfather, they may well find his politics repellent.

Will Wilkinson, who wrote that excerpt, is absolutely correct about ideologies changing. Political blocks move around, some ideological beliefs we have are much more arbitrary than we realize, and views just change with the times. Just to name a couple of examples, liberals used to be more pro-Christian than conservatives (See Father Coughlin) and it used to be liberals, not conservatives[2] who were adamant about tax cuts. Libertarian views — and for that matter, conservative and liberal views, will look very different in a few generations than they do today.

Moreover, even if we accept the idea that Libertarians will marry each other and produce kids who also tend to be Libertarians, which is an enormous “if,” Libertarians are so all over the map about everything that we’d probably have an ape world run by gorillas who keep humans as slaves before there would be enough Libertarians to make up a political majority.

Since Libertarian views are way out of the mainstream, you never really know which candidate they’ll support, what their reasoning will be (Both sides inevitably infuriate them on multiple issues), or what the key issue will end up being that brings them over to your side. That’s why it’s impossible to make any sort of political calculation involving Libertarians today and it’s the biggest reason why they’ll never have any real success as a political party, no matter how fast they breed.

  1. Libertarians can breed their way to political success:
  2. liberals, not conservatives:

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