Misconceptions of Politics


Libertarianism, despite being a political ideology, is fundamentally anti-politics. 

It advocates that instead of solving problems by legislation and state power, problems should be solved peacefully (ergo culturally), through the community.

Looking at the increasing political divide, and the invasion of politics into business via “woke capitalism,” this should serve as a reminder and clear example of the problems of trying to solve problems through politics instead of culture. 

In a political paradigm, people with very little information argue online in favor of their preferred complex economic and political systems and ideologies, and become rather antagonistic when their opponents disagree. It is much more distant from tangible reality, because rarely does anyone actually have any control besides their own vote. A political debate is less about one’s actions, and more about one’s opinions. It becomes less about “What have you done?” and more about “What is your opinion on free college?”

In a libertarian society, culture plays a much more important role. If societal issues are not determined by politics, they must be determined by cultural and market forces. Actions are much more important than opinions. Instead of debating the merits of what to ban, what should be free, or what regulation to pass, individuals must live their values. 

People with certain moral beliefs and cultural customs are free to live and promote their values within their community through freedom of association. Large nations have many different local communities with differing customs and traditions. Instead of promoting their own values and improving their own communities, they are focusing instead on influencing national politics and passing legislation that promotes their values and beliefs across the whole nation at the expense of the taxpayer.

In some libertarian societies, acts like drug use and prostitution, while legal, will not be normalized and instead be heavily discouraged and those involved will be socially ostracized. Other societies will be more accepting of this behavior and will welcome them. In these less political societies, people don’t have to worry about the constant threat of bureaucrats in a far off city pushing uniform legislation across a broad area of so many communities. It is this connection to action within our localities that centralized politics has destroyed.

Murray Rothbard declared that “Rights may be universal, but this enforcement must be local.” Political activists (whether left, right, or libertarian) are busy fighting the grand fight on a large scale. This battle needs to be fought, but it cannot be denied that it is displacing consideration of the local community.

Politics also provides an excuse for lack of action. We’re all aware of the stereotype of the angry man devoting his time to winning several debates on internet comments sections and considering that as his achievement to mankind.

Spreading ideas through books, podcasts, and other media can be quite productive (so long as people are paying attention). This is not to be ignored. However, one must remember that repeatedly complaining that political leaders and the elites passing or not passing the right legislation does not accomplish anything. One cannot trust politics to deliver the right solution.

If you are upset at the power of big corporations and lack of small businesses, start one, or work to promote other small businesses. 

If you are upset with online censorship by tech companies, actively use and promote the alternatives that will not censor. Even if you believe regulation is a solution, relying on the political system may not be the best choice.

If you despise what is put out by mainstream media, start contributing to their competitors. Or start your own.

If you believe art, literature, and film are degrading in quality, produce what you want to see, and promote it.

Clearly, these are much easier said than done. And complaining online is much much easier. But change, especially radical change, requires time and effort. And maintaining the status quo does indeed require much less effort than pushing for change. But that’s unfortunately just the way it is.

Do not give in to relying on political solutions to life’s problems. Lead by example.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]


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