It’s easy for an individual that has been cringeworthy himself on many occasions – even on a national stage (also, it seems you may be lacking some self-awareness with that “egotistical prick” comment, Mr. “I’ve Read 100 Books On This Ideology”) – to separate himself from any of the blame when it comes to how cringeworthy some libertarians are.
Aside from that, Charles Peralo’s assertion that “libertarians are […] the cringe lords of Facebook” stood out to me as a poor generalization. For example, in a world where regressive leftists showcase their poor understanding of economics, their abysmal critical thinking skills, and their hatred of the freedom of speech on social media (ironic, right?), it’s simply absurd to say that libertarians are the worst. All sides of the political spectrum have their cringeworthy members; libertarians aren’t unique in that regard.
In my opinion, Charles’s points were undoubtedly sloppy – and this is not just because his articles are typically a poor read, both structurally and contextually. His article proves that he simply had an ax to grind, and instead of coming up with 10 compelling reasons not to make your friends libertarian, he just compiled a list of things he doesn’t like about some libertarians.
So, here’s a different list of 10 ways not to make your friends libertarian.
10. Conflate Leftism with Libertarianism
In America, liberals may have stolen the term for our political ideology, but that doesn’t mean we are what they are; this is why I refer to leftists as such rather than “liberals,” and also because most leftists aren’t liberal – they don’t believe in things like the freedom of speech like they used to.
I don’t want to focus too much on Charles and look like I myself have an ax to grind, since this isn’t the time or place, but his content proves exactly my point on this particular issue.
Wanting to “save social security,” attack possible opportunities for secession, partner with a radical and violent leftist group like Black Lives Matter, support government paying off student loan debt rather than simply repudiating said debt, and advocate for universal healthcare are all ideas that swing left to varying degrees.
Moving away from the author at hand, there are plenty of other people that have done the same, from Gary Johnson’s “I agree with Bernie 73% of the time” comments, to other liberty advocates pushing leftist ideals.
Let’s stop making libertarianism about leftism. They’re not compatible. As long as universal healthcare, universal basic income, and maintaining social security and the rest of the welfare state are on the table, libertarianism loses.
9. Make Libertarianism About the Libertarian Party
Part of the problem I have with the liberty movement these days is that many people have abandoned “principle over party” in favor of “party over principle.”
Sure, political strategy often simply revolves around winning. But attacking the wrong people is the worst idea for an up-and-coming party. I see libertarians within the Libertarian Party attacking Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Justin Amash, and Thomas Massie simply for being Republicans, without realizing that most of us would vote for these people if they were on our ticket in a heartbeat.
These people may be Republicans, but they’re an ally to liberty and libertarianism. Let’s not forget that the Libertarian Party isn’t the only mechanism for advancing liberty.
8. Attack Veterans Simply for Being Veterans
I could write an entire book revolved around the idea that libertarians shouldn’t hate veterans just because they also hate that the government funds the military through taxation.
Whether or not you think our country should have such an expansive nanny state as it does, or whether you think the country should exist at all, military people haven’t done anything to you.
Attacking these people, who likely will be the easiest to pitch libertarianism, is a poor choice to make. These people have seen the disastrous effects of interventionist foreign policy, these people have seen why an expansive military doesn’t need to exist.
These people also are just people, and they’re not “baby killers.” They’re ordinary people, and most of them are reservists who never see combat deployment. Generalizing all the people who have served our country as killers, savages, and awful humans who want to steal your tax money to fund failed wars is not only an awfully poor and incorrect generalization, but also not a way to expand the libertarian base.
7. Attack Anarcho-Capitalists
Anarcho-capitalists are the purists of the libertarian ideology. This one should go without saying: attacking the most devoted liberty minds doesn’t do libertarianism any good. They’re an important part of the ideology, and whether or not you agree with them, they have a lot of good things to say, if you’ll just listen.
If you’re worried about the public image of libertarianism, and believe that people will generalize libertarianism as anarchism or anarcho-capitalism, then simply make it your mission to explain how that’s not the case when you’re pitching someone.
6. Ignore Property Rights
Life, liberty, and property; it’s cliché, I know.
But that, in short, is libertarianism. The right to life, absolute liberty, and property, so long as you don’t harm anyone else. The Johnson campaign was guilty of this, as well as many other libertarians. Property rights are integral to what libertarianism is as an ideology; if we abandon this integral plank, our ideology will fail.
We can’t make our friends into libertarians if we don’t have a philosophy. We also can’t do it if we don’t have a solid philosophy to pitch. Property rights are important, let’s not forget that.
5. Chastise Those Who Are Pro-Life
The abortion debate has always been murky when it comes to libertarianism, with both sides debating which provides more “liberty.” I tend to fall on the pro-life side, except when rape results in pregnancy – since there was no consent and it is essentially self-defense by the mother. I stand firm that life begins at the first heartbeat, which is around six weeks. The debate, in my opinion, should be whether life begins at conception or not. I haven’t personally heard an argument that convinced me life begins at conception.
Whether we even need to have this debate anymore has recently been taken into question, but since we will for the foreseeable future, it makes its way onto this list.
Pro-life libertarians see the unborn life as exactly what it is – a life. They argue that the mother and father had consensual sexual intercourse whilst understanding the possible consequences, and that the termination of said pregnancy is murder because it is the taking of a life; just because the life resides in a woman’s womb doesn’t make it her “property,” rather she consented to the possibility of pregnancy by taking an action that’s meant to begin a pregnancy.
Whether or not you agree with this, pro-life libertarians make good points. Not only can they attract a sizable right-wing electorate that tends to agree with libertarians otherwise, but these pro-life libertarians themselves are key to our cause.
Disagreements on abortion aren’t worth dividing the house over.
4. Punish People Who Stick to Social Media
Some people can’t get out and be real-world activists for liberty, and that’s understandable – they work full-time jobs that fill their days, have children, and so on. Not everyone can dedicate time out of their lives to get out and fight for liberty.
I had to turn down the chance to fly across the country and participate in a grassroots activism campaign this summer because I have to work my day job in order to save enough money before I transfer to an out-of-state college in the fall. I dedicate my time to being the news editor here at Being Libertarian, writing opinion pieces when I can, and using social media to spread the ideology. Once I have the ability to be a real-world activist, I will, but we shouldn’t punish people who can’t get out and be activists. They’re doing what they can – just because it’s not the medium you prefer doesn’t make it bad or ineffective.
Even if someone has the time but doesn’t want to be a real-world activist doesn’t mean they’re not contributing by posting to social media. If you couldn’t tell, social media is alive and well, and it’s an apt place to be a liberty advocate.
3. Forget About Gradualism
The only way to achieve everything in one fell swoop – whether it be minarchism or anarcho-capitalism – is to have some sort of civil war or revolutionary war. That’s a pretty drastic situation, and not one that’s popular, for obvious reasons.
Anything other than that takes time. Even secession takes time; at least all 50 states would have to secede, and there’s absolutely no way that happens all in one shot. Secessionism is one of the quickest ways to get what we want, assuming secession doesn’t result in another powerful government, with the only change being territorial size.
Besides those two, we have to realize that – as much as we may want it to – not everything is going to happen all at once. We can’t get everything we want right away, so we should push for every victory we can achieve.
By participating and contributing to a gradual move towards libertarian ideals, we allow our ideas to have exposure on a grander stage.
It’s a win-win scenario – we shrink government gradually (while not shutting ourselves off to other options to accelerate said shrinkage), and we give libertarianism more exposure.
2. Side with Antifa
To be honest, I think it’s pretty ridiculous that I have to even make this point.
Antifa are not anti-fascist, they are fascist. They are against free-speech and the freedom of association, and use violence to suppress speech and ideas. Libertarians, especially those within the party, have supported or sympathized with these people. Whether it’s to spite President Trump, or it’s based on pure ignorance, libertarians that side with Antifa are siding against everything they believe in.
Just because these people are “anarchists” (actually, they’re anarcho-communists), doesn’t mean we should side with them. If anything, that’s just going to reinforce the public’s growing notion that these people are libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, which is absolutely not the case.
1. Fail to Effectively Market Our Principles
This final, most important point takes a direct shot at Charles’s point that we shouldn’t remind people that taxation is theft, or discuss the non-aggression principle (NAP).
These are both key principles, like property rights, that make libertarianism what it is.
Sure, if all you ever say is “taxation is theft,” you’re going to push people to click that ever-so-enticing “unfollow” button. However, we shouldn’t just throw these slogans to the curb.
“Make America Great Again” and “America First” were key slogans that captured the attention of an otherwise silent and forgotten demographic. They were cliché on the surface, and were great for a bumper sticker. But everyone knew what these things meant: they were essentially shorthand for some of the policies Trump advocated for. If we want to pitch our ideas to people, we can do the same with our slogans. As long as we don’t say “taxation is theft” without expanding upon why it’s an issue and why we should fix it, these are things we can utilize to expand the libertarian base.
We don’t advocate libertarianism for fun, we advocate it because we want to free ourselves from coercion, and seek the most amount of liberty attainable. Remember, we can win this fight. Liberty can win, and it will, as long as we don’t forget our mission.
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