“Failure to politically accept differences in the personal beliefs of fellow libertarians is a failure to personally believe in the political foundation of libertarianism itself.” (-me)
As libertarians grow in number and in strength, so too will the attacks against them. Sure, there have always been attacks on libertarians and their predecessors, but they were relatively few and far between, since they haven’t posed much of a threat to the establishment until now. However, with the advent of the Internet, the ideas of libertarianism are no longer kept in hidden in the dark by progressive media. These ideas are spreading rapidly, not just within the United States, but around the world…the powers that be can see their control slipping; for the sake of self-preservation, they will go on the defensive.
“Libertarian” is the new buzzword. I cannot quite say when it achieved buzzword status, but I would guess somewhere around 2008 or so. While there are many true libertarians, there are a great many more claim-to-be libertarians, because it is becoming increasingly unpopular to be overtly anti-libertarian. Why? Because nobody wants to be opposed to freedom, or at least the perception of freedom. What better way to control people than to make them think that by controlling them you will “protect” their freedom. Sadly, many of the claim-to-bes actually are opposed to freedom in some respects, they just might not realize it. The dwindling number of people who are overtly anti-libertarian tend to be quite angry and aggressive in their attacks, usually hurling accusations that are wholly untrue.
Despite the fact that most libertarians welcome the increased support, most of us are also growing concerned over the fact that the meaning of libertarianism is being lost. Not only are pseudo-libertarians and detractors spreading false information, but there is also now in-fighting. It seems that there is a power struggle within the movement, and it is something I cannot stand.
What prompted this article was the discovery of a blog by the name of “The Skeptical Libertarian.” To my dismay, this website spends more time criticizing other libertarians than it does trying to espouse libertarianism itself. In doing so, the authors (David and Daniel Biers) are essentially discrediting people whom they see unfit for the duty of spreading ideas of libertarianism. Because their focus seems to be on in-fighting, I am left scratching my head, confused as to what exactly their endgame is. Are they true libertarians? Are they Koch Brother libertarians? Milton Friedman libertarians? Fair-weather libertarians? Are they really just GOP establishment parrots parading around as libertarians? Are they progressive secular libertarians who are cool with the economic liberty, but who want to rid the world of religion? Hell if I know. I’d like to believe that their goals are noble, but I believe that their means to achieving them are destructive.
I have read several of their blogs, and it quickly becomes obvious that they have a dislike for Ron Paul, Tom Woods, Lew Rockwell, and a host of others. They then make generalizations about those who oppose (regardless of the reason) pharmaceuticals, occasionally indulge in conspiracy theory, and apparently Christians in general. My guess is that they hope, by discrediting these men and their personal beliefs, that they can “clean up” the libertarian movement, purge it of unwanted ideas, and create a big tent for all of those progressives and conservatives who would be desperate to join, were it not for the likes of Ron Paul. This, to me, is ineffective and potentially absurd; it’s more probable it will actually just drive more people out.
First of all, we must establish the root belief of libertarianism. This is something that all true libertarians should believe in; those who do not, are fair-weather libertarians. Libertarians believe that no man or system/state has the moral authority to initiate force against another, an idea known as the non-aggression principle (NAP). This is not pacifist, mind you; it simply creates a framework for a man’s right to own himself. It’s all too common that I encounter people who say, “I’m a bit of a libertarian, but I support the wars.” War, as the libertarian should see it, is the most destructive inventions of man, and it epitomizes all of the flaws of the state.
The importance of reiterating this position is that it helps delineate among all of these so-called “libertarians,” separating them into true libertarians and “other.” There is nothing wrong with being “other,” but we truly need to show the world what libertarianism is if we have any hope of attracting people to adopt this non-aggression principle (again, it is the bedrock of our beliefs). Just a few days ago I was reading some propaganda in the media against one Jack Hunter, an aide for Senator Rand Paul. It alleged that he, some years ago, denounced the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a “terrorist attack.” Now, you can have your own feelings about those bombings, however, if you look at the logical argument here, it should be quite clear that Mr. Hunter, as a libertarian, would struggle to call the bombings anything else and still remain true to his beliefs. When terrorism is universally defined as the use of violence or threat of violence (usually against innocent civilians) designed to inculcate fear in order to achieve political objectives, then it would seem that the killing of 200,000 Japanese civilians with weapons of mass destruction, despite General Eisenhower’s pleading with Truman that the Japanese were about to surrender, is an act of terrorism. Sure, we were at war, but these were women and children. Nevertheless, if you go back to the NAP, war itself is a violation. Now, not all war is avoidable, and there are disagreements among libertarians about which wars violate the NAP and which do not. Either way, Mr. Hunter was not being anti-American for what he said, and he was not trying to dishonor all of the men who fought in WWII, he was simply reaching a logical conclusion based on his ideology. We should be helping the world to understand this, and show that Jack Hunter and the like are not insane, they merely believe in non-aggression.
Since the NAP is the one fundamental belief among libertarians, all other political views should flow logically from it. Murray Rothbard, in his book “For a New Liberty,” did a phenomenal job of building all of the logical political arguments for libertarianism. Rehashing them here would be unnecessary (but I highly recommend the book, for followers and haters alike). If you look at Ron Paul, Tom Woods, and Lew Rockwell specifically, they are models of these logical arguments. While these men are not gods beyond reproach, they are still good men who have done far more for the libertarian movement than most others have. I have a great deal of respect for the three of them, and while I cannot agree with all of their opinions, I rarely find any flaws in their political assertions which logically flow from the core tenets of libertarianism. Most people know Ron Paul as the “father” of the current libertarian revolution, but some might not realize that he is a pretty devout Christian. Despite his arguments against the prohibition of drugs and prostitution, he has personal objections to that culture. These two sides are fully compatible, because he, like most libertarians should, draws a line between his opinions on the authority of the state and those on the moral behavior of individuals; he lives his life in a wholesome way, and although he may not agree with the way others live, he does not believe the state has any authority to change them. It should be no wonder, then, that the Ron Paul Curriculum will have religious undertones in it. I find it hilarious that the Biers Brothers admonish libertarians for “conspiracy theories,” but then condemn Ron Paul’s curriculum as a conspiracy of Christian reconstructionism!
Regarding Dr. Thomas (Tom) Woods, I do not understand the Biers Brothers obsession with attacking him. The man is a highly articulate speaker who holds a bachelors in history from Harvard, and a Masters & Ph.D. from Columbia. I’m sure the man makes mistakes from time to time in his writings, but his efforts are crucial in providing a better understanding of the context around war and economy. There are some who hate revisionists (those who retell history from a different perspective, or who present facts that were otherwise ignored by establishment historians), but revisionism is critical. While some revisionism may have conspiracy theorist leanings, most of it does not. Regardless, history is written by the victors, and that is a truism that can never be overstated in politics. Some of what has been taught about history, politics, and economics in the public schools has been full of half-truths and deception. Correcting it or reinterpreting it is critical to establishing libertarianism. You might not like it, and it might force you to question some of those ideas which you’ve believed for so long, but it must be done.
Tom Woods is a somewhat religious fellow as well it seems, you can sense it in some of his speeches. However, he practices a high degree of self-restraint and focuses on his views of politics, which are ideologically compatible with libertarianism, as defined by Rothbard. I grew up in a Christian family, in a relatively Christian country; why should I be uncomfortable with Christian libertarians? Furthermore, I even voted for a Muslim Libertarian in the 2012 election. So long as they are not saying, “And now, EVERYONE MUST GO TO CHURCH/MOSQUE/SYNAGOGUE/FIRE DANCE!,” I do not see the problem here. Apparently the Biers Brothers feel Mr. Woods is part of a grand Christian conspiracy.
As for Llewellyn (Lew) Rockwell, much can be said in favor or against the man (depending on your perspective), but it is similar to Dr. Paul and Dr. Woods. Lew Rockwell is a champion of Libertarianism and the founder of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. He has been a linchpin of the liberty movement for decades. His logical arguments against state coercion are cogent and consistent. Those who know him well, respect him for this. Having said that, I do not agree with all of his opinions, however, he does a good job of delineating between his opinions on life and his position on politics. His website is focused on Lew Rockwell the man, not on libertarianism per se. It must also be said that Lew Rockwell is act the anarchy end of the libertarian spectrum, so for any newcomers to the ideology, he can sound extreme. He is not for the faint of heart. Then again, most libertarians know this, and he is rarely recommended reading for libertarian-lites. It is true that Lew Rockwell is anti-pharmaceuticals (more on those later), and he is also a Christian, but that does not mean that he is trying to establish a Christian state. Does Lew Rockwell discuss conspiracies? Yes. Does that make him a bad person? No. It’s possible that all of the evidence he provides is accurate…or it’s possible it’s a bunch of bunk. It does not take away from the fact that he is capable of articulating libertarianism with the best of them, and he was one of the driving forces behind the growth of the movement.
On the topic of conspiracy theories…yes, there are a lot of libertarians who believe in conspiracy theories. However, there are also a lot of liberals who believe that Republicans conspire to do evil things (e.g. Operation Iraqi Freedom), and there are a lot of Republicans who believe that the liberals are involved in one, giant secular conspiracy to eradicate Christianity. Libertarians do not have a monopoly on conspiracy theories, and implying that they do is harmful to the cause. Truth be told, however, many people are converted to libertarianism because of conspiracies (no matter how small) that have been proven to be true; they see one lie, then another, and eventually they realize that the emperor is wearing no clothes. These could be simple lies by the government, could be the discovery of regulatory capture, could be the problems with the economy, could be the dubious motives in war, etc. Conspiracies do exist, but they come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes people conspire to do good. It’s true that large, wide-spread conspiracies would be difficult. And it is true that some of the disease in the world is a result of the tyranny of good intentions and not conspiracies. But to deny that conspiracies exist is just naive. Let’s take for example JFK’s assassination. It was ruling by a committee of congress that the assassination was a conspiracy, it’s just been impossible to figure out exactly who did it. Watching the footage, only an idiot would buy the official story. Was it a government conspiracy? Was it the mafia? The Russians? The point is that it was a conspiracy.(period) It’s true that Alex Jones is abrasive and over-the-top, however, Alex Jones is a libertarian-lite, similar to Glenn Beck. I harbor no ill-will toward either of them, and once in a while I might listen to one of their segments, but in general, they are both men who are only more recently discovering true libertarianism. Due to the nature of their business, neither are in positions that allow them a lot of time for the introspection necessary to grapple with some of the implications and logical arguments of libertarianism. So, they are still on a course toward libertarianism from their conservative roots. Both of them would likely still say “Romney would have been better than Obama,” whereas most libertarians (including Lew Rockwell) would say that they were essentially both the same with only minor differences. Regardless, both men have a large following, and to write them all off is not helpful. If anything we should embrace these people, and help to educate them on the movement, since it’s likely that most of them are disenfranchised liberals and conservatives.
The problem with attacking conspiracy theories and theorists is that you are keeping people from thinking freely. Sure, we should base our positions on facts, but really, it is very difficult to find these “facts,” and most people lack the time or mechanisms for vetting these facts. The vast majority of the population has to rely on mainstream media for “facts;” while most of what they say is likely true, there is bias in all of it. It is no secret that the government provides the “official narrative” to the public through the mainstream media. Those “facts” are only as good as the government officials who are writing them. Can we trust most of it? Possibly, but we are seeing more lies every day. If there weren’t conspiracy theorists, who would we rely on to determine what is fact and fiction? Journalists? When the government and corporate interests have control over the mainstream media, how can they be trusted? The case that was made for going to war in Iraq was quite weak, and borderline conspiracy, but it was made through the media. MOST liberals buy into that conspiracy, why not embrace their anger with the state, and show them how libertarianism could help prevent these mistakes.
On the pharmaceutical industrial complex topic, the Biers Brothers further go on to assert that everyone should be fans of the industry and that they should trust them. Again, this comes down to personal opinion, not politics. If I don’t want to take any vaccines, that is my right. As a parent, I have to weigh the pros and cons of vaccinations for my children. Truth be told, there are a lot of dangerous drugs, legal and illegal. I love science as much as the next guy, but it is arrogant to assume that man will somehow conquer nature. Furthermore, it is a dangerously slippery slope. I have personal experience in escaping from the medical complex, and I have found greater health through healthier food and ignoring most of what the establishment says (reference my other blogs). Meanwhile, I see others who are dependent on the pharmaceutical industry, living a life of crippled health because of the compounding effects of these drugs. While there may not be any conspiracies, it is erroneous to believe that the FDA and USDA are not held hostage to the industry. This is regulatory capture, and the revolving door in Washington exacerbates the problem. Financially, it is draining our country, but even worse, it is doing much harm to our health. Yes, we have longer lifespans, but that might not be because of drugs, it could simply be that we are living easier lives. Yes, some drugs can help, but when profit is the goal, these companies have a vested interest in hiding any negatives. However, we don’t know what we don’t know, and it often takes years if not decades (if ever, really) to discover that a certain drug is bad. The government used to spread propaganda that sugar is healthy and that it would help you stay thin. WTF? While it might have just been ignorant scientists spreading this, they were scientists nonetheless.
I agree that bad drugs will disappear in a free-market system, but we do not have a free market system. What we have is borderline fascism (mix of corporate control in the government), and agencies like the FDA and USDA muddy the waters, leaving consumers confused. The free markets cannot self-regulate because of government intervention. In the end, if a man refuses vaccines and medical treatment, so what? That is the point of libertarianism…he shouldn’t have to submit, and we have no moral authority to coerce him.
Back to my original point of this blog: libertarians come from all walks of life. They are atheists, Muslims, Christians, Jews; they are sinners and saints; they are homosexual, heterosexual, polyamorous; they are scientists, they are naturalists, industrialists, and ecologists. Libertarians will have separate opinions on standards of individual behavior, and one can be a libertarian yet still impose some moral standards within his own home. So long as libertarians, politically, focus on the core principle–non-aggression–there should be no harm in having a colorful base of support. This diversity is a beautiful thing, and it is perhaps what I love most about libertarianism: you can be whoever you want to be, and believe whatever you want…just don’t force your neighbor to be like you. It is the democrats and republicans who force conformity, either covertly or overtly; anytime I read “libertarian” criticism of other true libertarians, I suspect that there is a degree of democratic or republican influence over the critic himself.
While I’m sure that David and Daniel Biers mean well, I would like to ask them to focus on spreading libertarianism, not attacking libertarians whom they consider too fringe for their own comfort. A model of this can be found at www.learnliberty.org, a site with a nice selection of informative videos in short lengths that are perfect for sharing with friends and family. There are no attacks on other libertarians, simply logical arguments about why libertarianism is good. I suggest it as a model because I’m quite certain that those involved in the project might not be great fans of some of the people mentioned in this blog, but they wisely keep that bias out, because it would serve absolutely no purpose.
The GOP in-fighting is because of a lack of ideology and common core principles; the in-fighting will destroy the GOP, but that is to be expected when they all have different beliefs on government. Libertarians are unique in that there is a pretty clearly defined ideology at the core; there is a common set of core principles which true libertarians should believe about government, all other non-political beliefs are irrelevant. If libertarians want to achieve liberty, we must work to recruit people who are just as diverse as our base; conforming to one man’s idea of what a libertarian should walk like and talk like will fail. As such, we need a colorfully diverse cadre of ambassadors. I think we have one…let’s just stop attacking each other for it.