Tuesday, July 01, 2008


It is becoming more and more popular to call yourself a "libertarian". You see many scoundrels running for office or giving misleading opinions under that banner. It is much less popular to actually live up to the label.

I'll ignore what I consider to be the core principle of "libertarianism" for this post, since I can still illustrate my point without bringing it up. I will also not bring up the point that "anarchism" is simply "libertarianism" in full bloom; taken to its logical conclusion. (Ooops! Did I say that?)

Not everyone who calls themselves a libertarian or hangs out with libertarians is one. No matter what your own internal definition of "libertarian" happens to be, I am sure you would agree that many so-called "libertarians" hold mutually exclusive ideas and values. You can not embrace individual liberty while thinking the answer to "the problem" lies in more (or more powerful) government and more (or stricter enforcement of) "laws".

"Libertarian". The core of the word is "liberty". So anyone who is opposed to liberty or seeks to limit it in any way (except where it harms innocent people) must not, by definition, be a "libertarian". It is like saying you could be opposed to good health and be a doctor. Not impossible, but definitely irrational.

The "argument" often used by the timid so-called "libertarians" is: "you can't really want to get completely rid of cops or taxes or all gun laws or....? That would lead to chaos and death in the streets!" I doubt it would, but.... Sometimes individual liberty might be inconvenient. It might even be dangerous. No one who values the individual over the collective ever said life would be or should be safe. A safe life (totally imaginary, by the way) would not be worth much anyway. Liberty is unexpected and exciting. It has no guarantees or limits. Even so, the alternative is much worse. The worst among us get drawn toward a position inside the state's machinery where they can use coercion to control and harm others in ways a freelance attacker can only dream of.

There are many socialists of the "left" and the "right" who are trying to have a bit of the libertarian glow rub off on them by claiming the label. Yet they are not willing to leave their love of the state and their distrust of individual liberty behind where it belongs. If this applies to you, you may need to rethink your ideas of yourself. It embarrasses the rest of us who actually believe in real individual liberty and are not ashamed to stand up for it... even when it is inconvenient.