Children’s Wing of Libertarianism

Over the weekend a few people e-mailed me an article title The Children’s Wing of the Libertarian Party. In it the author attempts to trivialize a good portion of the Libertarian Party by claiming that they’re not real libertarians. Once again we devolve into the No True Libertarian logical fallacy.

Libertarianism, not surprisingly since it is an individualist philosophy, succumbs to a lot of infighting. It seems every libertarian believes him or herself to be the only one who possesses the One True Truth of Truths. If you don’t agree with their definition of libertarianism then you are automatically wrong (and commonly labeled a statist because that’s our favorite insult).

According to the author:

Unlike the real libertarians, this vocal minority is more of the crusaderist variety. More focused on “protesting” and being part of some underdog crusade against “the man.” This results in them voicing protests that are no different than what comes from leftists and socialists.

Hyperbole over police brutality.
All war is evil.
Soldiers are murderers.
It’s all about oil.
The Illuminati.
The legalization of pot
“It’s the corporations MAAAAAN!!!!”
They even have a god damned Wikipedia entry for “libertarian socialism” which is the epitome of contradiction.

In short, they really aren’t libertarians as much as they are college kids who maybe read a pamphlet and now deem themselves “libertarians” since it’s “cool” and “edgy.” You might as well lump them in with the token high school “anarchist” or “marxist,” both parodies of themselves as they Venn diagram with “emo” and “wears mascara.”

Yes, he does appear to have used the phrase “real libertarians” unironically. Based on the article I’m lead to believe that the definition of libertarian in the eyes of the author is basically a Republican that is less socially conservative. In other words the members of the Libertarian Party who really like the state, want the state to severely punish anybody who crosses its imaginary lines without permission, and believes the state’s cronies are examples of a free market at work.

If that’s your thing then you’re free to subscribe to it. But for the purposes of this post I am going to refer to these individuals as the children’s wing of libertarianism. Like children these individuals seem to believe in magic. For example, they honestly believe that doing the same thing again and again will eventually lead to a different result. How else can you explain their participation in the political process? Anybody who has studied the history of politics has seen that playing by the rules put in place by the rulers doesn’t lead to liberty. Many of these self-proclaimed libertarians believe that the United States is the freest country in the world. They believe this because there is a magical scroll called the Constitution that lists a set of spells that supposedly keeps the state in check. Us adults in libertarianism know that those magical spells have failed miserably to keep the state in check because words on a piece of paper are just that, words.

The children within libertarianism also believe that performing certain magical rituals; including caucusing, running for office, and voting; will bring a new era of liberty to the people living in this country. Those of us who have studied political history already know that working within the system established by those in power never results in liberty. Some who have studied the political history of the United States may argue that the political process has granted additional liberty but there is no way one could sanely argue that the overall trend of politics in this country has been greater and greater state power.

In addition to believing in magic the children within libertarianism also suffer from a great deal of cognitive dissonance. Libertarianism is made up of vastly different philosophies but they tend to agree that non-aggression is a good thing. The state is the embodiment of aggression. It exists entirely on the threat and use of force. Adults of libertarianism acknowledge this, which is why we’re anarchists. But the children’s wing of libertarianism seems to believe that a small body of individual can be given the power to initiate violence and be trusted to stay within the bounds of some magical document written over two centuries ago (while, at the same time, complaining that they haven’t stayed within the bounds of that document). That is a level of cognitive dissonance that adults should be incapable of (but sadly are).

The children within libertarianism also enjoy beating on the free market drum while singing the praise of the state. Again this is a form of cognitive dissonance. So long as a handful of individuals can write rules and regulations impacting markets there can be no free markets, at least outside of “black” markets. With the ability to write rules and regulations those in power are able to grant special privileges to those they favor at the expense of those they don’t. Consider the method the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) controls spectrum. When it wants to raise some money it declares some spectrum up for auction. The auction process ensures that only well established market actors are able to gain access to that spectrum because only they are able to bid billions of dollars. The problem is just a continuation of the fact that those established market actors are often the result of previous state regulations pushing out their competitors.

I have a friend who is fond of saying “We’re all libertarians now.” Libertarianism has become little more than a label people like to apply to themselves when they want to sound rebellious and edgy but not too rebellious and edgy. Unfortunately these individuals have seldom studied libertarian philosophy so they end up sounding like children to those of us who have. They might be able to tell you who Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard are but are mostly unfamiliar with their works. Very few, if any, of them will be able to tell you who Tucker, Spooner, or Konkin are.