Cultural Libertarianism

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, one of the few remaining writers at Reason worth reading, wrote an article discussing a particular pebble that has been in my shoe as of late — cultural libertarianism:

Today’s “cultural libertarians” claim to be concerned, first and foremost, with free speech and fending off the “illiberal” or “regressive left.” Where they succeed, from a libertarian-no-qualifier perspective, is in igniting the passions of young people toward the protection of civil liberties. Where they fail is by turning off more people in the process than they win over, delighting in the kinds of tactics and stunts that provoke but little else. Going to a feminist rally and holding up signs saying “there is no rape culture” may seem edgy when you’re 20, but most people realize that intruding on private events just to throw shade simply makes you an asshole, not a radical for free expression.

That paragraph sums up my feels quite concisely. While libertarianism certainly allows for individuals to make complete asses of themselves and I would never use coercive force to stop somebody from making an ass of themselves, I do get tired of these libertarians who seem hellbent on making asses of themselves.

Whenever a feminist, social justice advocate, or any other person these libertarian reactionaries have deemed leftists make a statement they are quick to respond. And by respond I mean with as offensive of statements as possible, not anything that would lead to constructive conversation. In addition to make these reactionaries look like asses their behavior is also counterproductive. There is a lot of common ground between libertarianism and feminism, social justice advocacy, and other so-called leftist philosophies.

Consider racism. If you try to discuss the issue of racism you’ll inevitably have one of these reactionaries calling you a social justice warrior and saying various racial slurs over and over in a pathetic attempt to be edgier than my Benchmade. But the fact of the matter is, many laws in the United States do institutionalize racism even though they claim to be neutral on the matter of race. This is a topic libertarians and advocates of social justice could work together against the State.

An important question to ask yourself, if you’re a libertarian, is whether you actually want to move society towards libertarianism. If you do then being edgy isn’t going to cut it (I’m not apologizing for that pun, it’s a damn good pun). The only way we’ll move society towards libertarianism is by making libertarianism appealing (it’s that damn market rearing its head again). This is where socialists tend to succeed over libertarians. A socialist can tell somebody facing oppression that their oppression will be a thing of the past because the socialist government will come down on their oppressors like a bag of hammers… and sickles (seriously, these are good puns, don’t try to tell me otherwise). Libertarians needs to explain how the State, by legislating oppression, is the biggest enabler of oppression. That requires actually listening to people’s stories and working with them to figure out a way libertarian principles can solve or at least reduce their problems.

I, like many libertarians, am a contrarian by nature so I understand that telling a group of feminists discussing rape culture that rape culture isn’t a real thing can sound amusing. But it’s also counterproductive (and a really shitty thing to do). What is far more productive, and I know this because it’s what I’ve done, is to listen to them and try to work with them to achieve mutual goals (which is why I invest so much time in advocating self-defense, because rape is a real problem and everybody should be able to defend themselves against rapists).