Reject the Label

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There’s a stereotype that follows the libertarian movement around. It’s one that should not have any footing whatsoever, but it’s become such a commonly-used attack on libertarians that it’s now become mainstream.

It’s often what first comes to mind when people outside our movement hear the word “libertarian.”

“Oh, they’re just crazy,” they think, “libertarians are just radical, way-out-there people who want to live in a dystopian world where there are no rules or standards, and people can get away with doing whatever they want.”

Obviously, this isn’t true.

We are okay with people living their lives as they see fit, but we’re not the amoral shade of crazy that so many people want to paint us as.

Unfortunately, I think we may give into the label too much. We’ve become so used to hearing it that we’re now almost okay with it. We’ve almost gotten to a point where we accept it as a reality.

“Sure, we may be crazy, but we are in the right,” has now become our mindset. It is, of course, normal and perfectly okay for us to believe that our ideas are the right ones, but instead of playing into how the world views and labels us along with those ideals, let’s internalize the notion that our ideas aren’t that much more radical than the ideas of other political philosophies.

Here is only a drop in the bucket of the many examples those on the left and the right use to attack libertarians.

Libertarians advocate for the legalization of potentially harmful drugs — a lot of times not just weed.

Libertarians believe people should be able to say and do whatever they please as long as they’re not physically harming someone else, despite that meaning another person may in fact be offended by what others may say or do.

Libertarians believe regulations, most of which are put in under the guise of keeping people more safe, should be reduced and a lot of times cut completely.

Libertarians want government programs – even the ones that help the less fortunate – to be abolished completely.

Libertarians want to reduce military spending which may put our country and its people’s safety more at risk.

We’re then subsequently accused of being radical and destructive, not in touch with reality or the society of today.

We’re told that we’re not going to be taken seriously due to our dangerous philosophy.

Conservatives and liberals alike look down on us, and libertarianism, as people with no moral compass and as a crazy sub-group within our country that proposes an ideology that cannot possibly work for today’s time.

But when we compare what’s looked at as our “radical ideas” to the ideas of the more mainstream ideologies that are debated within our country, both the right and the left really don’t have much of a leg to stand on (if the main card they’re going to play is that libertarians don’t have a moral compass and that they’re, to put it quite simply, crazy).

For instance, most of conservatism now looks at the spreading of democracy as dropping bombs on countries that don’t share our same values, which doesn’t seem very humane to me.

Most liberals believe in stifling the speech of those with whom they disagree. That’s not tolerant – it’s the peak of intolerance!

Conservatives think that the most effective way to fight a drug epidemic is to load our prisons up with non-violent offenders as opposed to advocating for the free market to create more rehabilitation facilities and ideas; prison should be the last resort used when trying to change someone’s heart or actions.

Liberalism now says that we can abort a child moments before it enters our world — thus depriving it of its basic right to life.
I realize this example will be a point of controversy among my fellow libertarians, but I find it hard to see how liberals can claim the moral high ground as it pertains to the downtrodden when they won’t even give a person a chance to live their life and pursue their own happiness.

Conservatives believe in building walls to keep people out.

Liberals believe in forms of punishment for people who don’t believe the same way they do (e.g. criminal charges against climate change deniers).

Despite the inclusion of my own personal opinions on each of those points, I don’t point this out with the intention of completely ridiculing conservatives and liberals for the views they have.

I do, however, add them in so that you can better see the overall point I’m trying to make here.

Your views as a libertarian truly aren’t as crazy and radical as those on the outside would like you to believe. And no matter how much you say you know this fact to be true, if you look at the libertarian movement as a whole, it seems that we choose to play in to the stereotype way more than we should.

A guy stripping on stage at the Libertarian Convention, Gary Johnson faking a heart attack while debating marijuana, these are a few examples. This isn’t about, what I believe to be, dangerous policies of the other side, this is for you and I.

It is of course admirable to stand out and be different from the rest of society, but you don’t have to play into the idea that being politically different from most of society somehow makes the views you hold dangerous and immoral.

So, instead of giving in and just accepting what the political elites think of you, remember that that policy you support is not always the one that is the most radical. In fact, compared to the related policy of the other two parties, yours may be the one with the most common sense.

Choose instead to defend your views with common sense, and if the other side continues to come back at you with the “crazy” label, accept that they’re not going to agree with you but don’t accept the label.

By accepting that someone isn’t going to agree with you and by extending an invitation to respectfully agree to disagree, you’re already retroactively fighting to extinguish that label in the most effective way possible.

* Mark Metz lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has worked at a residential home for 7-12 year old behaviorally challenged boys for four years. He is a former conservative who has converted to libertarianism, and he is now looking to advance the ideas of liberty and freedom.

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