Libertarians, especially new ones, often believe that they care about the important issues while everybody else is wasting time on meaningless issues. Important issues include the economic damage done by the Federal Reserve, the iron grip the Republican and Democratic parties have on American politics, the seemingly endless state of unprovoked warfare, and whether or not colleges establish safe spaces for students. Wait, what was that last one?
It’s true. A lot of libertarians have fallen into the trap of what is commonly referred to as the culture wars. I call it a trap because it gets in the way of the struggle for freedom:
Too many liberty advocates are aiming for the easy targets of “political correctness” while taking their sights off of the true enemy of liberty: those with actual political power. This trend has been accelerating for years, probably because culture wars are fun, generate attention and engagement, and have soft and vulnerable targets. By comparison, the real problem of State power – imposed on the whole of society, not just paying students – is much more difficult.
The article ends up falling apart towards the end because it talks about teaming up with potential political allies, of which libertarians have effectively zero (since libertarianism is the antithesis of politics). But the article makes a good point about not falling into culture war traps such as college campus policies and blaming immigrants.
I give new libertarians a lot of leeway because they’re still finding their way. Libertarianism is a deceptively complicated philosophy. On the one hand it has a single rule: don’t initiate aggression. On the other hand that single rule can change everything when you live in a society that is built on initiated aggression. Leonard E. Reed wrote an excellent book titled Elements of Libertarian Leadership. The title describes the content perfectly. But to provide a summary, one of the most important elements of libertarian leadership is living a life that is consistent with libertarianism. Accomplishing that isn’t simple and it requires a great deal of introspection. That introspection takes time. New libertarians haven’t had that time and therefore periodically lose their way (I speak from experience as I too was once new libertarian). But those of us who have been steeping in libertarian philosophy for years should know better.
Us libertarian old hats should be striving every day to live our life consistently with our beliefs. How does one live a life that is consistent with the libertarian principle against initiating aggression? One of the biggest things we can do is divorce ourselves from the State as much as possible. A good example of this in regards to education are homeschoolers and unschoolers. They have taken it upon themselves to divorce themselves and their children from the State’s indoctrination centers. Do the policies of the State’s indoctrination centers matter to somebody who doesn’t go to one? No. As libertarians we shouldn’t get caught up in the policies of government indoctrination centers but should instead be working to divorce ourselves from them as much as possible. People will often cite the fact that many jobs require degrees from government indoctrination centers. To them I ask why the requirements of a company are relevant to an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is yet another tool that can be used to divorce yourself from the State.
Divorcing yourself from the State’s indoctrination system is just one step on a long and difficult journey. Even us older libertarians are still finding our way. Just because we’ve traveled the path longer than the new libertarians doesn’t mean our journey is over. Continuing to travel the path requires us to constantly analyze our lives to see what parts of it are inconsistent with libertarianism and then change those parts. Bitching about the policies of the government’s indoctrination centers won’t accomplish that. Neither will making a litany of excuses to justify said bitching.