When Leftists Are Better Than Libertarians – Opting Out


Why am I liking Tweets from leftists more than libertarians these days? 

It might be because, as we get to the real nub of the issues, when we get to crunch time about the societal problems that are so fundamental, the issue is not whether one places oneself within a certain club, but who has principles, and who does not. Lately, too many libertarians have failed this test.

Caitlin Johnstone has been consistently good on the issues that have most divided us over the past few months. She’s of the left, but principled and brave. She does not care whether she pisses off people who ostensibly accompany her on the left side of the spectrum – the truth is the truth. 

“Just tell the truth!” she says, but it can be painful. When you speak the truth, the veil gets stripped away, and political allegiance mind prisons that we’re told are important suddenly find themselves collapsing. It’s terrifying, but necessary.

When I talk about the left, I’m not talking about the establishment political left that presides over most major institutions. I’m not talking about MSNBC. I’m referring to the old-fashioned, gutsy leftism of the 20th century that took pride in questioning authority, that had a sense of humour, and an edge. These ones don’t seem to get as much airtime anymore.

The good ones have retained their skepticism of government, especially unaccountable alphabet organisations that hanker for war and violation of civil liberties. In addition to Johnstone, I put forward Glenn Greenwald and Jimmy Dore for consideration.

You know you’ve found one worth paying attention to when the usual partisan suspects target them for special vitriol, sometimes even more than is given to right-wingers. The problem for many of their lemming followers is not that the likes of Tucker Carlson might exist — that part is inevitable — but that any leftist might decide to appear on his show. Go to Glenn Greenwald’s Twitter right now and look at the replies to any Tweet — I’d bet money that there’s some doofus in there accusing him of being an alt-right stooge.

I’ve long ago stopped worrying about “infighting” within my own club. Infighting is good. actually, mostly because it implies there is no orthodoxy. There is some small hope that some independent thought is going on. Ideological conflict means there’s a cleaning-out of old lies, or old frameworks that are no longer appropriate. The key is to remain sovereign, as Johnstone says:

“All these debates we’re seeing lately over who should be let into and kept out of the Revolution Club, how the Revolution Club should act, who should lead the Revolution Club etc are based on the assumption that there has to be a Revolution Club in the first place, and there just doesn’t. Organize and collaborate on a case-by-case, issue-by-issue basis while remaining sovereign.”

This debate about who should be allowed into or blocked from the Revolution Club might remind libertarian readers of the long-running feud about which ideological direction the US Libertarian Party might turn. On the one side we have the increasingly popular Mises Caucus and their effective recruitment drive, spurred by major figures like comedian and podcaster Dave Smith. On the other side we have the long-established “moderate” (blue pilled) wing whose activism solely consists of Chicken Little’ling about keeping white nationalists and the alt-right out of the party.

I might be blissfully ignorant in my little bubble, but I haven’t received sight nor sound of any major alt-right figure in libertarian circles in about two years. Yet we’re bombarded by these hall monitors (who seem to breed like rabbits) on constant vigilance duty: “You liked a comment by so-and-so, who was a member of a different Facebook group with the Confederate Flag as a banner,” or, “You weren’t sufficiently insistent that the Mises Caucus kick out a Holocaust denier!” Over and over again.

It is, above all, tiresome. There has to be more to libertarian activism than this. Has to be! If the entire basis of whether one can work with someone or not is whether we associate with people who do things or have in the past done things that might be seen as socially unacceptable, then basically none of us are safe. Everyone reading this has done things that they’re not proud of. What you can’t do is pick and choose. 

Now I’ll tell you what I do. This way you retain your independence, and reduce your cortisol levels: praise behaviour, and condemn behaviour, and forget about the group that this person belongs to. 

Now let’s take someone I rarely agree with: Owen Jones. For those who don’t know, he’s a left-wing British journalist, serial TV talking head, and wrong about almost everything. He is however very popular. When once in a blue moon he happens upon the right take, am I going to succumb to pride and dismiss him, simply because he’s not part of my in-group? God no! I’m pleased that someone of such wide reach has a view I share. That just means an audience we wouldn’t normally reach now has access to sounder ideas. I’m sharing the shit out of that video!

The folks I mentioned before, Johnstone, et al. are utterly hopeless when it comes to capitalism and socialism. They are probably lost causes. However, their records are so good on more important issues, I am okay with pretending not to see it when they drop garbage takes.

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James Smith

Writer and film-maker from the United Kingdom. Digital nomad. Author of 'The Shy Guy's Guide to Travelling'.