Libertarian algebra

There’s been something of a libertarian theme at Club Troppo this week, what with Fred Argy’s rather unlikely characterisation of Kevin Rudd as a libertarian on any topic other than shameless self-promotion, and my snarky comment about libertarians’ self-confessed lack of attraction for women.

Jason Soon suggested I was being sexist, but strangely completely omitted any reference to the gross sexism of Pommygranate’s own post that provoked my comment in the first place.  In fact I simply made the perfectly reasonable assumption (in light of Pommygranate’s concession) that the intellectual attraction of libertarianism seems to be largely confined to a particular type of nerdy bloke, and that therefore women would probably only be induced to join for reasons of romance.

Tim Lambert leapt in helpfully with a hat-tip to the perfect libertarian woman

In light of that sequence of events, I’ve decided to do what I can to assist the lonely libertarians by preparing an algebraic summary of their views in the hope that some suitable women might be  impressed by the intellectual subtlety of libertarian thought:










Have I missed anything?  As an equal opportunity and deeply civil centrist blog, please feel free to add your own algebraic caricatures of other political persuasions in the comment box.

Update – Helen “skepticlawyer” Dale has a thoughtful response at Catallaxy.   I should point out that I didn’t really have in mind moderate libertarians like Jason Soon and Helen, who really should label themselves as “liberal” (as Andrew Norton does) rather than “libertarian”.  I had in mind the extreme Randian or Nozickian types for whom the above algebra is an accurate summary not a caricature.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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72 Responses to Libertarian algebra

  1. Gummo Trotsky says:


    (Both major public factions of the Australian Technocratic Elite Party)

  2. James Farrell says:





  3. Mark Hill says:

    Wow guys, this must be why you are counted as public academics.

  4. David Rubie says:


  5. David Rubie says:

    Mark Hill wrote:

    Wow guys, this must be why you are counted as public academics.

    Let’s try it with a bit of libertarian algebraic substition:

    …this must be why you are counted as EVIL+INCOMPETENT academics.

    Cool – it works!

  6. Patrick says:


    (Clive Hamilton et al)


    (Tim Flannery, who is yet to apologise for procreating)
    (please note # :is not equal to)

  7. Mark Hill says:

    Well, at least you got the joke David. They aren’t my definitions. There is only one “libertarian” (who everyone else disassociates from) who actually believes this simplistic jingoism.

  8. Yobbo says:


  9. James Farrell says:

    Your missing two things about this exercise, Patrick:

    1. It’s only funny if it’s not an an exaggeration.

    2. It’s only interesting if you can apply the algebra to a whole ideology, as opposed to one particular, idiosyncratic, and not especially formidable individual.

  10. James Farrell says:

    Oops: You’re.

  11. Helen says:


  12. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Apropos comment 8:


    (From James at 2)





    I’d like to be more precise, but that needs a much more formal notation, with symbols from set theory and quantified formal logic.

  13. Gummo Trotsky says:

    that should be DISSENTERS <> LIBERTARIANS

  14. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Damn it!

    n*LIBERTARIAN (Where n > 1) <> COLLECTIVE.

    Libertarian algebra gets a bit tricky at this point. The expression DISSENTERS <7gt; LIBERTARIANS is not commutative – that is, it’s incorrect to turn it arround and say LIBERTARIANS <> DISSENTERS, because that would entail the equality LIBERTARIAN = CONFORMIST. However the expression:

    n*LIBERTARIAN (Where n > 1) <> COLLECTIVE

    is commutative, because clearly no COLLECTIVE could ever consist of LIBERTARIANS.

  15. pommygranate says:


    Where is this ‘gross sexism’ that you refer to?

    On the contrary, you seem to be implying that libertarianism is a difficult concept to grasp and hence only appeals to smart ‘nerdy’ people. You also seem to be implying that this effectively rules out women. Who’s the sexist, Ken?

  16. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Where is this gross sexism that you refer to?

    How about in this quote from a female libertarian, pommy:

    There are strong biological reasons for women to value family more than men do. This plays into a tendency to value groups higher with respect to individuals than men do. There are strong social forces which encourage everyone to value the collective above the self, and these are analogous to gravitational force. The biological tendency to value family higher means women have a much higher escape velocity with respect to collectivism, and only the highest energy women break free of the social force.

    That is: the typical woman (which I, Claire Wolf, am not because I’m a libertarian) hasn’t the smarts to overcome her very strong biological predisposition to collectivism.

    The fact that this guff comes from a woman doesn’t make it any the less sexist. Just as “all men are bastards (except for me, of course)”, coming from me, is a sexist slur on men, despite the fact that I possess a somewhat underused set of wedding tackle.

  17. Patrick says:

    James, fair point about exaggeration – but I do reckon those apply to big enough classes of people, especially the first one.

  18. Jc says:

    After Fred tells me Rudd’s a closet Reason reader along Trotsky’s critique of libertarism even i’m confused what libertarians stand for.

    I now find out Pom’s a sexist and it’s over, I off to join the socialist left with Trotsky as chairman and party secretary.

    Trot, tell me how does that “fairness” stuff work again as I keep forgetting.

  19. Jacques Chester says:

    Must we persist in using ALL CAPS? I realise it’s all in good fun, but I am having FLASHBACKS to SQL CODING and soon expect to see SELECT * FROM stereotypes WHERE political_leaning = ‘libertarian’;

  20. Jc says:

    Trot says:
    That is: the typical woman (which I, Claire Wolf, am not because Im a libertarian) hasnt the smarts to overcome her very strong biological predisposition to collectivism.

    Trot now thinks that in this enlightened age men should also breast feed their kids. Of course we ought to ignore any genetic predispositions that tend us toward specialization. This is when evolutionary theory becomes a little too uncomfortable.

    Trot, we’re ciphers for our genes for the most part. All Pom’s doing is making obvious reference to that truth and proves he hasn’t been taken in by the 80’s nonsense you were.

    As Jason Soon once asked, why is it that lots of lefties think evolution stops at the neck. You have answer for that?

  21. Gummo Trotsky says:

    After Fred tells me Rudds a closet Reason reader along Trotskys critique of libertarism even im confused what libertarians stand for.

    That’s easily clarified:

    Libertarianism stands for = naked self-interest + 0

    … how does that fairness stuff work again …

    Ask Andrew Bolt. He appears to have a clear and distinct understanding of what fairness is.

  22. Jacques Chester says:

    Also, Gummo’s stirling work on the discrete mathematics of the topic deserves a plug.

  23. Jc says:


    I would add monetary policy to the list…. breaking up it two parts.

    1. gold standard
    2. Fractional reserve.

    Many libertarian friendships have been permanently scared over debates on those two hot issues. Familes no longer visit each other or turn down the blinds on approach. Drinks have been poured over people’s heads (true).

    Fractional reserve has almost split the LDP…. :-)

  24. Jacques Chester says:

    Gummo — you may find this reference page handy.

  25. Jc says:


    Since when do you stick bolt in with libertarians? Have you asked him?

    Nothing personal asking this, but are you drunk during the approach of this festive season?

  26. Jc says:

    Ask Andrew Bolt. He appears to have a clear and distinct understanding of what fairness is

    You link refer to Jon Holmes, Trot. What does a 80’s pornstar how to do with Bolt. you lost me here dude.

  27. Gummo Trotsky says:


    As usual you’ve got nothing to come at me with but a handful of straw (straw men for the stuffing of) and inept vituperation. It’s easy to see where any genetic predisposition for specialisation you might have lies. All you need to achieve your true potential is a pair of slap shoes and one of those water-squirting plastic flowers.

  28. David Rubie says:

    Jacques Chester wrote:

    Must we persist in using ALL CAPS?


    And we forgot one expression just for Jacques:


  29. Jacques Chester says:

    Actually, mine would have been READ MY STUFF = I’M NOT A STRAWMAN LULZ

  30. b- says:

    “As Jason Soon once asked, why is it that lots of lefties think evolution stops at the neck?”

    ah, cause evolution is much more complex than simple male/female biological models. Humans are complex social beings who don’t fit into neat dichotomies of sex, gender or behaviour. I’d recommend actually studying biology and evolution rather than reading crappy evo-psych that simply confirms its own preconceived ideas.

  31. David Rubie says:

    Heh heh. Fished in Jacques.

  32. Jacques Chester says:

    It was worth a nibble.

  33. jc says:

    All you need to achieve your true potential is a pair of slap shoes and one of those water-squirting plastic flowers.

    No kidding trot, bit didn’t you have a cartoon sketch of gummo that looked like that on your blog (plus the clown nose)? Why would I want to look like what you aspire to?

  34. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Why would I want to look like what you aspire to?

    I suggest you think long and hard on that question, JC, because, despite your considerable efforts to date, you still haven’t come within coo-ee of achieving that aspiration.

  35. pommygranate says:


    So let me get this straight. In researching the post on why there are so few women libertarians, i collected the thoughts of female libertarians themselves on this matter. quoting one of these (although not all according to you) women makes me a sexist.

    are you all there?

  36. Mark Hill says:

    Ah peoples…we aren’t libertarians apparently. Remember the carbon tax thing Farrell “refused to get dragged into”? We don’t know what we are anymore. Do you? Please help us find our identity. Axiomatic deductive reasoning may come in handy yet.

    Maybe we’re just a giant pain in the backside. I don’t even know why I got defensive in the first place. Sorry.

  37. Gummo Trotsky says:


    Perhaps you could explain your concluding paragraph to me:

    Women received the right to vote in Australia in 1901, in 1918 in the U.K., and in 1920 in the US. Up until then, the governments of these three countries pursued largely classical liberal policies (by todays standards). A generation later, classical liberalism was dead and social democracy was born – a system that is largely still with us today. Coincidence?

    It seems to me that you’re insinuating (post hoc ergo proctor hoc) that it was giving women the vote that led to the undesirable decline of classical liberalism in Australia, the UK and the US and its replacement with the much less desirable (to libertarians) state of social democracy. That single word question “Coincidence?” at the end I read as rhetorical.

    If I’m correct in my reading then, on the evidence of your own words, as well as those of the women you have chosen to quote in your post, you are indeed, a sexist. So show me where I’m wrong, if you can, so we know whether the system of libertarian algebra should include:

    votes for women = rise of social democracy = doubleplusungood.

  38. b- says:

    just because a female libertarian said it, doesn’t mean it’s not sexist. Jews can be anti-semitic, blacks can be racist, women can be sexist.

    Ann Coulter has said women shouldn’t be able to vote, FFS.

    I might point too that there are quite a few female libertarians that I know of. They tend to be libertarian socialists however, which probably indicates that while they support libertarian principles on issues like freedom of choice, legalisation of drugs, that kind of thing, they recognise that unconstrained capitalism always leads to inequality and oppression.

  39. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Maybe were just a giant pain in the backside.

    Moment of painful self-knowledge narrowly averted.

  40. Mark Hill says:

    At least we’re not smug.

  41. Jc says:

    Can you please explain what a libertarian socialist is as I can’t quite get my head around that one.

  42. Caroline says:

    I cannot click on the Club Troppo banner to get me out of here without the risk of appearing as though I am in the vaguest least bit interested in applying for credit from that greedy, corrupt, adversorial, we haven’t crashed yet, (its only a matter of time) we are being dragged over the coals for being involved in a cartel, evil corporate entity, you know who I mean. (and I don’t mean Club Troppo). But while I’m here this is apparently not sexist in the least?

    and that therefore women would probably only be induced to join for reasons of romance.

    Telstra=even worse.

    Could you not find some thing ‘nicer’ to advertise?

  43. Caroline says:

    And before someone tells me you don’t get a choice in who you promote I’ll say in advance, that really sucks.

  44. Jacques Chester says:


    Even Club Troppo is a victim of globalised advertising networks, though we’re trying to arrange something a bit less ginormo.

  45. Ken Parish says:

    I bet that Sol Trujillo wanker is a libertarian too.

  46. Brendan Halfweeg says:

    Is it sexist to say nice things about women? Clear me up on this one.

    Is it sexist to say that certain traits that can appear in all humans regardless of sex tend to appear more prevalently in humans of a particular sex? I’ll answer that for you:

    Sexism isn’t observing that many more men than women become engineers and economists. Sexist is preventing women from becoming engineers and economists.

    Sexism isn’t observing that more women are more attracted to egalitarian causes than are attracted to individualist causes. Dismissing women’s opinions who are attracted to individualist causes is sexist.

  47. Patrick says:

    The ad now is for Earth hour!!!!! /vomit

  48. Ken Parish says:

    See. We’ve sold out to commercialism in a completely balanced and centrist way, just like Spitzer’s callgirl. Anyway, at least I haven’t seen an ad yet for Peta (thank God).

  49. David Rubie says:

    We can add another axiom to our libertarian algebra now apparently:

    SEXIST=SEXY (thanks Brendan and Spinal Tap)

    And possibly start on the centrist algebra:


  50. Gummo Trotsky says:


    You’re never going to live down that schoolyard nickname if the best you can do is to come up with ideologically loaded examples, badly expressed. Allow me to rewrite your second paragraph so that it makes a less ideologically loaded distinction:

    Sexism isnt observing that more women are more attracted to egalitarian causes than are attracted to individualist causes. Dismissing the opinions of women who are attracted to egalitarian causes is sexist.

    That now makes your declaration ideologically neutral as far as the opposition between libertarianism and that dreadful collectivism stuff goes. However, even with the clean up (to get rid of that awkward usage ‘women’s opinions etc’ we now have a problem. As restated, it is sexist to dismiss any egalitarian opinion, regardless of who states it (man or woman) if that opinion is held by one or more women.

    Equally if I’d left it alone, your statement claims that it is sexist to dismiss any individualist opinion, regardless of who states it (man or woman), if that opinion is held by one or more women. So, in libertarian algebra we have:

    Opposition to libertarianism = sexism; and
    Opposition to egalitarianism = sexism.

    Sexism is rampant and universal! But then we all knew that already.

  51. Zombie Mao says:

    I was going to add my 2 cents…but Gummo Trotsky has covered it.

  52. Brendan Halfweeg says:


    You take a cheap shot at Claire Wolf for expressing opinion, and a cheap shot at me for defending individualists. Or don’t individualist count in your great collective? Aren’t we being opressed by the system? Aren’t libertarians voices ignored? Don’t we qualify for your great and good sympathy?

    The issue isn’t whether women can identify with libertarian principles of non-violence and voluntary interaction, but how better to resolve the concerns of individuals with egalitarian tendencies that government that is based on libertarian principles does not threaten collective action but actually enhances the legitimacy of voluntary collective action and removes the stigma of coercion from progressive thought.

  53. Kevin Rennie says:


  54. Niall says:

    Nice dis job on labelling, KP

  55. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Wrong again, Brendan.

    The immediate issue, in all my comments from 38 on, has been the question “was pommygranate’s post grossly sexist”? So far, no-one’s produced a convincing, cogent argument to demonstrate that it wasn’t.

    … how better to resolve the concerns of individuals with egalitarian tendencies that government that is based on libertarian principles does not threaten collective action but actually enhances the legitimacy of voluntary collective action and removes the stigma of coercion from progressive thought.

    Excuse me if I refrain from editing this gargantuan incoherency. All it amounts to is a statement of an obvious problem for libertarians: how do you convince people that libertarianism doesn’t threaten the creation of an oppressive society where people are actively prevented from joining together to assert their common interests? Especially when libertarian algebra holds that:

    collective = coercive gang of thugs.

    Of course, despite all appearances to the contrary, one shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that every organised group of people is a collective. That is:

    libertarian organisation ≠ collective
    LDP ≠ collective (but Liberal Party = collective, ALP = worse collective, Greens = even worse collective)
    corporation ≠ collective (and trade union = almost the worst collective imaginable, if it weren’t for the existence of the ACTU).

    Well, that’s a problem that you’re just never going to solve, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone whose thinking isn’t strait-jacketed by the notion that you can build a social philosophy by deductive reasoning from a set of simple axioms or abstract models of how people would behave in a “state of nature”. Anyone, that is, but a libertarian.

  56. gilmae says:

    SELECT People.*, COALESCE(r.blog_name, b.blog_name, ‘Has No Blog’) as blog_name
    FROM People
    LEFT JOIN (SELECT person_id, blog_name FROM Bloggers WHERE outlook=’Earnest’ and hygiene=’Smelly’ AND is_relevant=0) l on l.person_id =
    RIGHT JOIN (SELECT person_id, blog_name FROM Bloggers WHERE charisma=0 AND is_shrill=1) r on r.person_id =

    Especially for you, Jacques.

  57. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, gilmae, (if nothing else it will relieve a few minutes of Good Friday afternoon tedium) but what I think you’re trying to demonstrate in your SQL statement is something like this:

    ∀(leftist ∈ left):(leftist ∈ humorless)
    ∀(rightist ∈ right):∀(leftist ∈ left)
    ∃(centre):[&forall(centrist ∈ centre):(centrist ∉ humorless)]
    (gilmae ∈ centre) ∴ (gilmae ∉ humorless)

  58. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Oops! That would have been so much better if I’d got it right first time:

    ∀(leftist ∈ left):(leftist ∈ humorless)
    ∀(rightist ∈ right):∀(rightist ∈ humorless)
    ∃(centre):[&forall(centrist &isin centre):(centrist ∉ humorless)]
    (gilmae ∈ centre) ∴ (gilmae ∉ humorless)

  59. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Well that’s that little joke completely blown:

    ∀(leftist ∈ left):(leftist ∈ humorless)
    ∀(rightist ∈ right):(rightist ∈ humorless)
    ∃(centre):[∀(centrist ∈ centre):(centrist ∉ humorless)]
    (gilmae ∈ centre) ∴ (gilmae ∉ humorless)

  60. Jacques Chester says:

    I think we’ll scare off the poo-flingers of all sets (ha!) if we stray into first order predicate logic and relational algebra, fellas.

  61. Gummo Trotsky says:

    Not much risk of straying that far again, Jacques. It’s too much bloody work to type it.

  62. gilmae says:

    ffs….now I have to go and re-learn all that shit again after I put so much effort into forgetting it.

  63. A J Nock says:

    Right. So the Club Troppo blokes are all these incredible stud-muffins and small-government types who are not CO2-bedwetters just never learnt how to pull the chicks. That the theory?

  64. Jason Soon says:


    Giving yourself away there, Herr Vogel.

  65. Heh heh, nice one gilmae.

    A penny for your thoughts, all.

  66. gilmae says:

    I kinda thought it was funny when you credited libertarians with not sticking you – and presumably others – into a gender-based straight jacket only a few paragraphs after sticking whole groups of people into political-based straight jackets. It was a delicious use of irony to highlight the inherent – and implied by the placement of his tounge – bogusness of Ken’s shit stirring.

    I’m going to need more than a penny for that thought. Standard award for a dues-paid member of the International Order of The Sardonic, Insouciant and Allied Unions of my level – 10th, I have a saving throw vs GMB of 8 – is at least twenty-five cents per word; and reading this is considered agreement to a standard shrink-wrap user license. I’ll have my people talk to your people.

  67. Just when I think I understand libertarianism, it gets harder. Perhaps it would be easier if Ken (and the army of truth & justice) could specify exactly who these evil doers are.

    Apparently it doesn’t include Jason & Helen… which is strange because they seem like standard libertarians. But can I assume it does include “pommy”? He actually believes in far more government intervention than Helen & Jason and is firmly on the “moderate” side.

  68. I am not CL says:


    Sol is a phony

  69. Peter Wood says:


    The set of instances of market failure is the empty set.


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