Tuesday, January 12, 2016

libertarianism is not a big tent movement

The last decade has been an exciting time for our movement. With the campaign for president of Congressman Ron Paul libertarianism has become mainstream and with this new found popularity, many disaffected conservatives and social democrats have come to identify, in part or in whole, with this label.  Too many perhaps.

It is important that the struggle for a free society attract new converts.  The movement desperately needs fresh blood. But we also have to ask ourselves, what are we trying to accomplish?  What are our ends, what are our means, and are our means suitable for achieving our ends? If we are to accept, as we should, that our struggle is righteous, even vital to the long term prosperity of the human race, then it behooves us to engage in some critical examination of our activities and to ensure that we have the greatest chance of success in combating the state and promoting the ideals of the truly voluntary society.

The problem is ideological purity. In our present etatist climate, libertarianism an anti-populist vanguard movement. The problem is as these newcomers enter the fold they dilute and moderate our message. This is both poor strategy and poor tactics. It is bad in a strategic sense because this weakens our chance of long term success, and emboldens and strengthens our enemies. By advocating for half measures either in a bid to appeal to the public or because these are the actual beliefs of those who push for them we weaken our case and make the middle of the road or pro-state position seem more reasonable. And it is also poor tactics to make these half-hearted pleas for freedom because it is the very radicalism of the pro-freedom crowd which can attract newcomers and youngsters. The most attractive thing about this philosophy is that it is uncompromising and relentless in pursuit of justice. There is an acknowledged hypocrisy in the social democrat viewpoint and this is the Achilles heel of the menshevick belief system. By turning into hypocrites ourselves, we provide no contrast and offer aid and comfort to those who support the state. And the limited government position is self defeating, since once you acknowledge that a government monopoly on X is important, you open the door for a monopoly on Y, and Z and everything else. If your logic is not internally consistent then what hope do you have of promoting your world view?

Another problem is that there are many who are attracted to our blossoming movement with their own ideological axes to grind. Both social justice warriors and racist bigots tarnish our great ideas with their idiocy. These people must be shouted down, ridiculed and ex-communicated. By allowing every half baked idea to fly under our flag, we set ourselves up for failure.

Peer consensus is something that only teenagers should obsess over. Ultimately, our movement is iconoclastic. We are necessarily alone and apart from the respectable voices of society. One day in the future our work will be completed and libertarianism will be a mass movement. One day the man in the street will mouth the pro liberty platitudes that have echoed down from our work.  But that day is not today and we must never compromise our beliefs and ideals in order to hasten it, lest it never come at all.

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