I recently came across this article by Anthony Gregory. I like this piece and I tend to like most of his stuff. Furthermore, I completely agree with his rather sharp criticism of the Obama administration. That said, the piece brought a few issues to my mind that found worthy of discussion. To start, I am of the opinion that much of the reason the mainstream left, dislikes, distrust and at times deliberately misunderstands the libertarianism, is because all to often mainstream libertarians treat them as the enemy rather than potential allies.
For example in this very article Gregory speaks of the left as some sort of confused other ideology, and states that libertarianism should be seen as it’s greatest threat. Libertarians have greatly down played the role of government in creating the giant centralized corporations, so many on the left distrust (often for good reason), as well sheltering them from competition. Too many libertarians are happy to defend ,at all cost, a firm like Walmart from various attacks, while sweeping under the rug the fact that it is largely filling a niche created by government intervention. It all to often sounds like libertarians share Ayn Rand’s view that big business is government’s most persecuted minority, rather than it’s biggest partner in crime (which is far more frequently the case).
Mainstream libertarians all to often sound like they want de facto rule by big business, with no welfare state for people who cannot help themselves in such an economy. The libertarian mainstream often confuses the economy we have with the free market they advocate (and the left correctly, concludes that an economy just like we have now, minus the welfare state, would not be a happy one). Libertarians need to emphasize how radically different and better what they want would be from what we actually have, rather than present themselves as some sort of socially liberal Republicans. Liberals and many moderates hate plutocracy, and it would serve libertarianism well to recognize the plutocratic nature of the current system, vocally contrast this with what they actually advocate. The inability to address this confusion has profoundly hurt libertarianism.
In their attempt to appeal to conservatives the libertarian mainstream has become to much like them and has lost its radical edge. We get Ron Paul type figures, who are not satisfyingly strong in opposition to abortion restrictions, support for separation of church and state, or freer immigration laws. Simply put, they seem to be happy to accept various forms of social conservativism as long as big business can do whatever it wants. This is not libertarianism any meaningful or attractive way. A more robust libertarian on the issues, could really take votes away from Democrats, while the overly prevalent bong-smoking Republican type of libertarian has a very limited appeal. Mainstream libertarianism, has shown a complete disregard for much of what ordinary left-wing types are concerned about, when a consistent and radical approach to libertarianism would address many of their concerns and have great appeal to them. Libertarians should talk more about how things like zoning and licensing actually hurt the poorest among us and how making an economy where anyone can work out of their home, or start their own business without the high overhead caused by excess regulation, would free us from a big business dominated economy.
A lot of these ideas have widespread appeal and would attract support if more people actually were hearing them (rather than defenses of how great Walmart is). Libertarianism actually has a huge left-wing appeal on issues like, war, foreign intervention and the surveilence state, but the mainstream seems to put such a huge emphasis on praising big business, that these appealing stances are lost in the mix. As I have said, sense the start of this blog, I favor the development of an alliance between the anti-establishment left and anti-establishment libertarians, individualist anarchist and voluntarists of all sorts to accomplish shared goals. But first we need to find those shared goals.
- Why Lew Rockwell should throw Pat Buchanan Under the Bus (1wilsonreport.wordpress.com)
- Real Libertarians Don’t Shill For The Kochs (c4ss.org)
- Liberals- Probably not Motivated by Envy? (1wilsonreport.wordpress.com)