Before libertarianism, those advocating for individual liberty and freedom were known as liberals. Early advocates for liberalism like John Locke and the Founding Fathers spoke of private property, individualism, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For these liberals (and their modern ‘classical liberal’ counterparts), the purpose of government is to protect the rights of the individual.
Over the course of the last few centuries, the term ‘liberal’ has acquired an entirely different meaning (especially in America). To be a liberal, one must advocate for ‘free’ education, a large welfare state, and other government-run programs. A liberal must then advocate for higher taxes to fund these programs.
Simply put, a modern liberal and a classical liberal would find very little to agree on.
Unsuccessful attempts in the past have been made by various groups to reclaim the term ‘liberal.’ As the left wing continues to move further left, there is a growing number of disaffected ‘liberals’ abandoning leftism with no place to go.
Some cross to the right and adopt the ‘conservative’ label. Others move slightly down on the political spectrum and become libertarian. But for the remainder, leftism is too far left, conservatives do not accurately represent them, and the anarcho-capitalist element of libertarianism (along with the embarrassing Libertarian Party) keeps them from proudly adopting the ‘libertarian’ label.
This is where the liberalists come in.
The liberalists are an incredibly young movement. The term itself was coined as early as January 2018 by classical liberal Sargon of Akkad, and disaffected liberals began organizing immediately after. The USA Liberalists are even officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the state of Florida.
The question is, why should libertarians care at all about a small classical liberal movement?
The reason should be obvious: the liberty movement needs all the help it can get. Governments across the western world are growing in power and show no sign of slowing down. Libertarians are pushing back, but not nearly enough to push things in the right direction. Whether or not someone chooses to call him/herself a libertarian is irrelevant so long as he/she believes in and advocates for individual liberty and freedom.
The liberalists may not be hardcore AnCaps, but they’re not too far off from the average libertarian. Some liberalist principles include economic freedom, individualism, self-reliance, equality under the law, secularism, and freedom of speech.
That last principle is the most important to the liberalists, and has been the majority of their activism thus far, including their participation in the #DayForFreedom event and their backing (both in spirit and financially) of Count Dankula’s #GrosslyOffensive conviction.
When it comes to other issues outside of these principles, the liberalists are quite divided. Since its original formation, the liberalists have brought in more classical liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, all united under individualist principles. This is reassuring. It’s always possible for a political organization or ideology to begin drifting a certain direction until it no longer represents the principles it originally stood for.
So long as the liberalists maintain their ideological diversity, they will remain committed to the principles of individual liberty shared by libertarians and small-government conservatives and liberals.
The ideological diversity of the movement works to the benefit of all those involved. Since the individuals in this group are also involved in other groups across the political spectrum, the dialogue and conversations among liberalists can help us work to understand one another’s ideas rather than talk past each other.
The liberalists can also help libertarians branch out. Many times, libertarians find ourselves focusing on battles within the libertarian movement, quarreling amongst ourselves over the tiniest of differences that, unfortunately for us, won’t matter for quite a long time. Working out our differences and clarifying our principles can be a great thing, but our battle is with those that knowingly advocate for government tyranny.
By collaborating with the liberalists in the interest of our shared principles, we can work to bring about the ideal liberalist future. When we do reach that point, we’re only steps away from the ideal libertarian future.