This week we take on the topic of libertarianism, an ideology that in recent years has gained many adherents, including political conservatives and people in business, especially the high tech industry. But it’s worth asking, what is libertarianism and where does it fit in the history of American political culture? Is it a mainstream ideology with deep roots in American history? Or is it one on the fringe? And what accounts for its surging popularity in recent years?
Well, to answer these questions, I’ll first give my historian’s take on libertarianism. Spoiler alert: I’m not a big fan. I’ll point out how libertarianism occupies a place on the very outer fringe of American political ideology. And that it’s mainly an ideology of recent origin (ca 1945) and that it’s popularity has a lot to do with the efforts of millionaires and billionaires, as well as large corporations, that fund pro-libertarian initiatives. The US has always revered individualism, but not the radical individualism that defines libertarianism. It’s an individualism that has always been tempered by an equally important commitment to the common good.
Then I’ll speak with Christine Woodside, author of the book, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books. Wait, what? Little House on the Prairie has something to do with libertarianism? Yes. In fact, as you’re about to hear, it has quite a bit to do with it. Let’s just say that it’s a story that includes not only Laura Ingalls Wilder, but also Ayn Rand, the Koch brothers, and the Libertarian Party.
Among the many things discussed in this episode:
What is libertarianism and where does it fit in the history of American political culture?
How have billionaires and corporations since 1945 worked to promote libertarianism?
Why the Founding Fathers were NOT libertarians.
How Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter infused libertarian themes into the Little House books.
How the Little House on the Prairie franchise helped fund the rise of libertarianism and the Libertarian Party in the mid-20th century.
About Christine Woodside – website
Christine Woodside, Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books (2015)
Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (2017)
Colin Woodard, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good (2015)
Daniel Cluchey, “The Founding Fathers Were Not Libertarians,” Huffington Post, May 25, 2011
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Ketsa, “I Will Be There” (Free Music Archive)
Doc Turtle, “Thought Soup” (Free Music Archive)
Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer
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