By Cruz Marquis
Libertarians are the most fractious of all political types, if it was not for our constant infighting, there would have been several libertarian presidents by now. The problem is this: Who earns the title “libertarian?”
Asking who earns that coveted title is sure to cause an argument whenever there are two or more supposed libertarians are present and indeed, there is no shortage of definitions. At one point or another, all of the following have been labeled as part of the movement or claimed it themselves: the founding fathers, Jacksonian Democrats, Austrian School economists, anti-war protestors, Randian Objectivists, Rothbardian anarchists, Ron Paul enthusiasts, Hoppeans, hippies, and of course, the “LOLbertarian.”
If the title suggests anything, it is the LOLbertarian being the subject of this article. What is this creature one may ask? This is the caricature of libertarianism drawn by the legacy press: the republican who wants to smoke weed or otherwise lacks morals. What a depressing thing to build a worldview around, drugs and immorality!
This caricature has popular appeal, and one popular reddit post which generated over four hundred comments, cuts to its core:
“People keep saying that we would have a third party, but it’s hard to support that mindset when the only other viable party is ‘Republicans who want to legalize weed.’
If I wanted smaller government and free-reign capitalism, I would just vote Republican. The only reason why Libertarians want less government oversight is so weed can get legalized. And once America has nation-wide marijuana legalization, Libertarians will look around, realize they have no other goals, and the party will just disappear overnight.”–u/thedelisnack via Reddit
Obviously, this is not correct. Republicans are not a laissez-faire party and never have been, they favor protectionism, corporate welfare, the military industrial complex, the income tax, among other statist innovations. Aside from outliers such as Ron and Rand Paul, the last true anti-statist Republicans left politics by the 1950s, the mostly forgotten Old Right which arose as a reaction to the welfare-warfare statism of the World Wars. Casting the GOP as the true home of freedom as opposed to a place to park a vote if one is inclined to vote for “the lesser of two evils,” is nonsensical.
Lawrence Vance wrote an article on the libertarian position on the drug war almost a decade ago and made the same point in reference to the supposition that the GOP and the LP join hands in opposing omnipotent government: “Social conservatives do not ‘resist an intrusive central government.’ They welcome one—as long as it is managed by socially conservative Republicans.”
Anecdotally, I can certainly confirm that legalizing weed is not the motive power behind libertarianism. As for myself, I find marijuana a disgusting, and uncivilized habit and would not touch it with a ten-meter cattle prod. Some libertarians agree with me and would not touch the stuff themselves, others do not, but this does not change the fact that the energy of activists and intellectuals is directly elsewhere. Instead of using the libertarian movement as a vehicle for legalizing a foul-smelling plant, I use it for advancing radical decentralization which will tend toward the minimization of the state, a much loftier goal than getting high.
Again anecdotally, most of the conversations I have with likeminded libertarians, not nearly all of them of the paleo persuasion, tend to get back to minimizing the machinery of government, abolishing entire agencies, cutting off the welfare spigot, privatizing educational institutions, and repealing gun laws. Drug legalization conversations tend to be over in a few sentences a Lysander Spooner quote about vices not being crimes. So much for the LOLbertarian.
One of the ways the legacy media keeps the libertarian movement underground is by portraying it like this, by making it look unserious. As everyone acquainted with the movement knows, the center of gravity of libertarianism is not adolescent rebellion, no matter how much FOX and CNN talking heads would like it to be, instead it is serious intellectual challenge to the state and what it stands for.
Ridiculing libertarians as kooks who have an irrational hatred for roads, the post office, and drivers’ licenses is a way to keep the public from reading von Mises, the letters of Brutus, Frederic Bastiat, Albert Jay Nock, Robert Higgs and others enough to fill a college library. If the general public learned that libertarianism was a fully rounded out ideology with more doctrine than Marxism had at its height, they might abandon the two-party duopoly, a disaster to be avoided at all costs!
The legacy media did not survive this long for lack of survive instincts: it is in their best interests to keep discussion of other ideas to a minimum so the two sides can continue their power without contest, happily handing off control to the other every few years. Partisan bickering is essentially a puppet show for the mystification of the voters: no matter which candidates get into power; they assuredly believe the same things. The only difference is what magic words they use to sell their schemes, which are oddly similar.
America has been without serious ideological competition for over a century. The end of the Third Party System and the extirpation of the Gold Democrats, Clevelandites, and Bourbon Democrats in the 1890s marked the end of the classical liberal movement in American history. Never again was there a serious and uncompromising laissez-faire movement in either of the major parties. The Democrats were taken over by inflationists and statists first under the personage of William Jennings Bryan, and the Republicans have never been more than moderate statists.
Libertarianism is an effort to resurrect the old principles of the American way, uncompromising liberty, laissez-faire, and anti-statism. It is no wonder that both parties can put aside their supposed differences long enough to pull the rug out from under libertarians by attacking them in the media, going after their institutions, and stonewalling any attempts at electoral reform to give the American citizenry more choices at the ballot box. The return of true ideological competition would bring an element back to our politics that has been missing since time out of living memory: true opponents of the statist system.
If the general populace somehow learned the true nature of libertarianism, simple and blithe dismissals of the whole movement as “Republicans who like to smoke weed,” would dissipate quickly. On that occasion, the GOP would be taken to task for generations of larping as enemies of the state while in reality being its handmaidens, albeit of a lower order than the Democrats of the Progressive Era to present. Such an electoral earthquake might be strong enough to break the duopoly by bringing real ideology back into politics instead of 5th grade level insults, bad economics, and low-quality playacting, a catastrophe indeed!
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