The Future of Liberty

We Libertarians* have had a fun year, because we’ve actually had a choice about who we select for the presidential nomination, and our choice has actually mattered pretty significantly. It’s pretty obvious that with a general election clearly coming down between Trump and Hilary, many voters will be fed up and seeking a third option. With the Libertarian Party being the only third party appearing on the ballot in all 50 states, there is a clear opportunity to gain some much-needed ground–ground that we had claimed 4 years ago, but lost when a huge number of people shifted from support of Liberty to support of Socialism.

There’s never been any doubt, though, that Gary Johnson is going to get the nomination. His lead in polls and name recognition are too great, and it didn’t hurt him that much to come out and say that Jewish bakery owners should be forced to bake a cake for Nazis. In reality, every Libertarian should have immediately rejected him in the way that I did–that’s a fundamentally anti-Liberty position to have, and many Libertarians did reject him. But not all.

ron paulAnd that’s because the party has been hijacked by an influx of classical liberals whose introduction to liberty was done by Ron Paul**. Ron Paul, of course, was not a libertarian, either–he said so himself in Liberty Defined. It’s true that classical liberals and libertarians are pretty closely aligned, but the fundamental question of the nature of the state is one upon which they disagree, and that’s a huge, critical question. But there are now far more classical liberals dominating the libertarian party than there are libertarians, and the result… is exactly what we’d expect to find: low support for McAfee, high support for Petersen, and an assured nomination for Gary Johnson.

I argued on Youtube recently with someone who got offended that I dared point out that he’s not a Libertarian. It’s sad that I have to point this out to people, and I guess it’s more related to my being a Nihilist than a Libertarian, since there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently libertarianish about calling out bullshit. However, classical liberalism and libertarianism are not the same thing–they are, in fact, mutually exclusive because the point of difference between them is on what the role of the state should be.

It’s without irony that I say libertarianism is the first step on the road to anarchy. I’ve never made that claim about classical liberalism, though if we consider the early United States to be pinnacles of classical liberalism, than we could certainly make the argument that classical liberalism –> libertarianism –> anarchism. However, to equate classical liberalism to libertarianism is to allow the conflation of libertarianism and anarchism.

How do I justify calling myself an anarchist yet interfering in the affairs of the libertarian party? To be clear, this is exactly why I admonish the classical liberals who are supporting people like Gary Johnson and Austin Petersen and ignoring a true Libertarian candidate like John McAfee. By doing so, they are redefining the Libertarian party, hijacking it and making it the Classical Liberal party. If they want to elect classical liberals, then that is fine, but they should do so for the Classical Liberal party, not hijack the Libertarian Party to do it.

Part of the issue is that they don’t understand libertarian principles, and they think the platform is some generalized one of “wanting small government.” I would kindly remind these people that such a platform is that of Conservatism, not Libertarianism. If the only thing that binds you to the Libertarian Party is your desire for small government, then rejoin the Republican Party and start electing conservatives who will actually fulfill their promises to limit the role of the state. To find out the principles and policies of the Libertarian Party, you need look only to the name:

Libertarian. Liberty. That’s the guiding principle of the Libertarian Party.

Libertarians want a small government because the state and liberty are directly at odds; small government is incidental to the philosophy and is not the principle itself. This is more than splitting hairs, because Liberty involves a ton of connotations that “I want small government” simply don’t. For one, there is the Non-Aggression Pact, which is something that Austin Petersen and this Youtube person are against.

fvcAs I’ve pointed out before, it is impossible to violate someone’s rights without using force, violence, and coercion–that is, it is impossible to violate someone’s rights without using aggression. It’s simply not possible. It is also true in converse: as soon as force, violence, and coercion are used, then someone’s rights have been violated. Aggression and rights are at odds, just as the state and liberty are at odds (which is no surprise, since liberty is the maximization of rights and the state is the institution in society that achieves its aims solely through aggression).

The NAP, therefore, is a critical aspect of the recognition of rights, and the recognition that individuals have the right to not be victims of force, violence, and coercion; it is the expressed agreement, a pledge even, that one will not violate the rights of other people. This is the most fundamental question of liberty, and it creates an obvious slippery slope to allow aggression in some circumstances. I’d remind all of these classical liberals that the United States already has clear rules about when aggression is acceptable, and these rules have been consistently expanded, re-interpreted, and violated for well over a century.

This person said that it will all be okay when we restore our Constitutional Republic. I’m unable to comprehend what kind of insanity leads to that idea. We’ve already tried a Constitutional Republic. Look what happened. Restoring our Constitutional Republic would only guarantee that, 230 years from now, a new generation is fighting against a leviathan state that literally regulates how they can take a shit. Seriously, in the United States you can’t even take a shit without the state regulating it. It’s something we forget, but there are:

  • regulations on the toilet paper
  • regulations on the water
  • regulations on the toilet
  • regulations on the light bulbs
  • regulation on the electrity
  • regulations on skipping all that and trying to do it outside
  • regulations on the septic tank
  • …and more!

We dare call ourselves the land of the free and we literally can’t even take a shit without the state telling us how to do it. We’re not the land of the free. We’re the land of the regulated, the land of the licensed, the land of the permitted–today we purchase rights that our ancestors and fought and died to secure.

Sure, while we’re at it we can install a feudal monarchy and see if that plays out differently this time, too!

We won’t get a different result if we repeat the same experiment. The Classical Liberal experiment failed. Oh, and there’s no doubt: Jefferson, Washington, and all the others were classical liberals according to today’s terminology. The nation they built was a Classical Liberal nation, and we know that it wasn’t a Libertarian one because of its roles of the state: minting a currency, regulating foreign trade, regulating interstate commerce, even having a Supreme Court…

supreme court

None of these are Libertarian things to be doing. To the Libertarian, the state has no right to regulate commerce, to regulate international trade, to create or abolish treaties. And the “Tenth Amendment” argument that people are so fond of putting forward: “It wouldn’t be a big deal if we just left these matters to the states, instead of the Federal Government” is absolute nonsense. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Federal Government imposing its “pro gay marriage” position onto all 50 states, or if it’s a single state imposing that position onto 92 counties–it’s still anti-Liberty, at any level of government. That fewer people are marginalized doesn’t make the marginalization suddenly okay.

These are the things that made Ron Paul NOT A LIBERTARIAN. And he says so himself. To the Libertarian, the government (sorry–it was unavoidable) has no business regulating trade at all–not federally, not locally, not internationally. To the Libertarian, the government has no business making the currency–not federally, not locally, not out of gold and silver, not out of paper, not out of 1s and 0s. These are the ideas that DEFINE Libertarianism.

It is not a No True Scotsman fallacy to say that people who don’t hold these ideas aren’t Libertarians, because the Libertarian platform is clear and concise. The Libertarian platform is more or less codified, and all of it is extrapolated from the principles of Liberty. If you don’t agree with that platform, especially on the matters that literally define that platform, then you are not a Libertarian. It’s like someone saying “I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe in a god or Jesus.” It’s like–No. We literally define “a Christian” as someone who believes Jesus was the son of Yahweh, so you can’t say you’re a Christian if you don’t hold that position.

Classical Liberals are the people who think the government should do such things, and that’s a gross violation of the most basic of Libertarian ideas: the state should exist solely to protect the rights of the people. Classical Liberals add a few other things to that, and those few other things they add prevent them from being Libertarians, because… I mean, that’s what Libertarianism means. It’s what it literally is.

I recognize that we need the Classical Liberals on our side, if we are to ever win an election, and 2016 is shaping up to present an actual opportunity to do exactly that. People hate Clinton and people hate Trump; this is going to be the most divisive election of our lives, and it could only be worse if Sanders gets the Democrat nomination–but he won’t, obviously. Already the bandwagon has lost its momentum, and all the people who suddenly were like “I’m going to talk about politics, so if you don’t like it, then you can unfollow me!” have shut up again and descended back into their self-involved holes–the hibernating bear. The thing that bothers me about these people isn’t necessarily that they pop up every few years (at best) to make a political remark, it’s that they do so with some kind of self-righteousness, calling themselves activists and involved in politics, when they’re only jumping on a bandwagon.

About a year ago, I told someone that I’d been slacking off myself and hadn’t really been very involved in politics. Then I looked again, and I realized that my standard of “not very involved in politics” was drastically different from the average person’s. I was still writing all over the place, still answering Quora questions on liberty and anarchism–that was me not being involved. And I ran, which was an Anarchist Atheist page. So when I, who am active in politics and not jumping on a socialist bandwagon to appear more involved than I really am, see these people sanctimoniously mouth off like they’re actually trying to change the world, it irritates me. If they merely tweeted once or twice some stupid pro Sanders bullshit, I’d gladly ignore it. But to follow that up with bullshit assertions that they’re “going to be political” despite all evidence to the contrary and despite the fact that they’re just jumping on a bandwagon–that’s too sanctimonious for me to ignore.

Anyway, yes. To win the presidency, at the very least we need the classical liberals to vote for the Libertarian Party. But they should have the self-awareness and the decency to not attempt to influence who that candidate is, especially when the candidate they’re trying to pick is not a Libertarian at all and is a classical liberal. Instead of hijacking the libertarian party, they should have the decency to recognize that they’re classical liberals and that if they want a classical liberal candidate then they should start a classical liberal party. The Libertarian Party exists to nominate Libertarians, not Classical Liberals, and I can–and have–demonstrated that neither Petersen nor Johnson are Libertarians. They claim that they are, but I can claim to be an alien from the Horsehead Nebula, but it won’t make me an alien from the Horsehead Nebula. I judge them on their policies, principles, and positions, not their expressed associations.

I support John McAfee because he is a Libertarian. He’s the only one of the main three who can make that claim honestly. I don’t support McAfee because he’s an anarchist–I would never support an anarchist trying to hijack the Libertarian Party to push their anarchist agenda. Neither should classical liberals allow classical liberals to hijack the Libertarian Party to push their classical liberal agenda.

Nor am I alleging that Classical Liberals are an enemy, or that they shouldn’t be allowed to select the nominee. Not really. I am saying, however, that they should have the decency to put their classical liberalism aside and vote for a nominee who is actually a Libertarian. It’s just not right to hijack a political party with a pure philosophy with a corruption of that philosophy. It isn’t right for Sanders, an avowed Socialist, to run as a Democrat, either, but at least with him he has a reason: Socialism and modern American liberalism are not at odds, and the Democratic Party is one of the big two American parties. These two big parties do accommodate a wide range of views and positions.

The Libertarian Party, however, does NOT accommodate a wide range of views and positions. The Libertarian Party’s positions are set in stone as its principles, and always yield the same outcome when those principles are applied to a given issue. It’s not like the Republican Party, where disagreement is expected; its positions and principles are clearly outlined. And those positions and principles directly are at odds with classical liberalism and its pro-government positions.

If you support the Libertarian Party, you should do so for the reasons that I do: because it’s the closest party that there is to sharing your ideology and principles. You should not hijack that party with your ideology and corrupt it so that its candidates are in-line with your philosophy. I’m not trying to make the Libertarian Party more anarchistic; you shouldn’t be trying to make the Libertarian Party more classically liberal, either. You should respect the Libertarian Party’s right to nominate Libertarians, not interfere and impose classical liberalism onto the party. To refuse to recognize their “right” to nominate a candidate who is actually a Libertarian, because you want the Libertarian candidate to be a classical liberal, is a philosophical violation of the very principles of liberty. It doesn’t involve aggression, I freely admit (and it’s why I put “right” in quotation marks), but I’ll return to something else I’ve said recently:

We can’t ignore the wedge issues once they’re brought up, because it’s still critical to push people philosophically toward liberty and “Live and let live,” even though it’s a wedge issue. As long as a sizable chunk of the population is philosophically willing to push their views onto others, then we simply aren’t ready for liberty. All of these wedge issues must be sorted out, with people agreeing to live and let live, before we abolish the mechanism that prevents them from forcing their views onto others. Adopting Libertarianism or anarchism will not erase that underlying mentality that they can and should force their views onto others. Whether it’s a wedge issue to distract us from the state’s illegal actions or not, it still must be addressed.

* I’m not a Libertarian, but I’m ideologically aligned with them, in the same way that anti-theists are aligned with atheists and in the same way that anti-theists are also atheists. I want to go one step further and abolish the state, but a Libertarian society wouldn’t be untenable, and is, in fact, the first step to properly abolishing the state. I am not attempting to impose my anarchist views onto the Libertarian Party–I support John McAfee because he’s a Libertarian, not because he’s an anarchist running as a Libertarian. If, somehow, an anarchist attempted to run as a Libertarian, I’d speak against that, too.

** I supported Ron Paul in 2012, and I greatly admire him. I’m not knocking him. But he himself will tell you that he’s not a Libertarian; he’s a classical liberal. And, more importantly, Ron Paul advocates libertarian philosophy, and he does not (and never has) attempted to undermine the Libertarian Party with classical liberalism. Ron Paul was also a Republican at the end of his career, not a Libertarian, for precisely this reason, people. There is much to admire about him, and this refusal to corrupt the Libertarian party’s purely libertarian principles with classical liberalism is among those reasons. If only his followers had the same decency.

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