Fringe No More: Libertarians Are Everywhere Now
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
Libertarianism in the United States began as a fringe group. No doubt about it.
Brian Doherty traced the history of libertarianism in the United States from its beginnings in the 1940s up to 2007, which was the publication year of his book, Radicals for Capitalism, A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.
Even with the advent of the Libertarian Party in 1971, the idea of minimizing government and maximizing freedom – or even eliminating government and unleashing freedom – remained on America’s philosophical and political fringe.
It was Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns via the Republican Party in 2008 and 2012 that transformed Libertarianism with a capital L and propelled it into, if not the philosophical and political mainstream, at least into the awareness of the American mind.
Book Break: Your Libertarian Opinionizer’s Pick
For years now, even when YOUR political party, Democratic or Republican, is in power little ever changes and you’re never happy. That’s because, as the author puts it, unless you’re a totalitarian dictator or a narcissistic Marxist your underlying principles, knowingly or unknowingly, are libertarian.
Still you’ll likely deny it. Perhaps vehemently, angrily, utterly. But at some point you must agree that you actually live most of your life on the libertarian beliefs you learned from your parents or your teachers or on your own: Don’t hit, don’t bully, don’t cheat.
It’s time to stop fighting it and get in touch with your Inner Libertarian.
From Sidelines to Headlines
In many people’s minds libertarians are still fringy. What they don’t get is that libertarianism doesn’t begin and end with the Libertarian Party. Libertarianism isn’t just a political movement. It’s a philosophical movement. It’s a social and cultural movement. It’s a freedom and responsibility movement. It’s a moral and ethical movement. Most important of all it’s a people movement.
The Modern American Libertarian Movement is a “Big Tent” movement. All it takes to be libertarian is to understand and embrace the idea of the non-aggression principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud in all of its many forms, including the government form.
Libertarians are everywhere in today’s society, not just on the fringe but embedded in the woof and weave (or is that the warp and weft?) of our social fabric. They’re your coworker, your car mechanic, your financial advisor, your bank teller, your grocery clerk, your lawyer, your dentist, your veterinarian, your IT tech, your plumber, maybe even your dad or mom, your son or daughter.
Libertarians are active in politics, in business, in society, in community, in your neighborhood, fighting the culture war online and offline against both the collectivist left and the authoritarian right.
Following are examples of how and where libertarianism is growing and coming into its own. The important thing these various selections show is that libertarians are virtually everywhere in society now.
Special interest Libertarians
Taylor Maid Libertarians
Some people are libertarians who also like Mexican food, some people are libertarians who also like Agatha Christie's crime novels, and some 1,100 people identify as “Libertarian Fans of Taylor Swift.”
Why? What do Libertarians and Swift have in common? The only clue we get is from the fan group’s Facebook “About” page: “We are libertarian fans of the great Taylor Swift. Liberty and T. Swift are one of the same.”
One of the same? Swift is known for being non-political yet her libertarian followers seem to find libertarianism in her lyrics. They post snippets that have words like “Free” and “Freedom” and “Revolution.” These are committed LiberTaylorans who some say should be committed.
Two-Wheeled Freedom Riders
Some Libertarian Swifties might find a few Swift Motorcycle fans online at “Libertarians MC,” the Libertarians Motorcycle Club.
These Libertarian bikers are traditional small government “minarchist” capital L Libertarians who advocate defending the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and vow to “zealously expose the difference between true freedom and the illusion of freedom.”
They may be Libertarian Party style limited government types but they definitely get the non-aggression principle. Under DEFENSE ONLY on their FB “About” page they boldly declare “The proper function of the state is to protect, not to provide. Therefore, do not approve coercion for any purpose except to protect human life, liberty, or property. (This is the principle of non-aggression.)” Currently they’re almost 4,000 strong and growing.
So they’re not exactly Hell’s Anarchists but think about it: If you’re engaged in a “victimless crime” and a biker rolls up would you rather it be a cop or a Libertarians MC member?
Now let’s get serious. “Green Libertarians” may sound nichey but this FB page has 11,390 followers. “We are libertarians who advocate sustainable lifeways. We are anti-authoritarian and therefore anti-state. We support direct action.”
“Libertarian Gardeners, Homesteaders, and Survivalists” is a self-explanatory FB page with “41,559 Likes” and “41,236 Total Followers” at this writing.
The Green Libertarian position is simple and compelling: Individual landowners are far more protective, responsible and in touch with their environment than government for the simple reason that distant governmental apparatchiks have no skin in the game.
Private sector free market environmentalists don’t claim to have all the answers but it has long been abundantly clear that government sure as hell doesn’t either. The ultimate argument against government environmentalism is the same as government doing anything.
Reed’s Rule: Any thing that becomes politicized ceases to be about that thing and becomes all about the politics.
Our environment is too important to be left up to self-serving politicians.
In today’s angry, antagonistic, highly politicized and deeply divided society many people will laugh at “Libertarianism for Normal People,” labeling it an oxymoron. Yet its goal is very calmly and clearly stated that “Libertarianism for Normal People is about teaching everyday folk how to increase the amount of personal freedom they have in their daily lives.” At this point some 6,660 people have responded to its message.
This Facebook page along with its website, blog and podcast attempts to help everyday people understand how to obtain more personal and financial freedom and “time independence” by increasing their individual skill set and their understanding of how government continually interferes with their efforts.
Of course this FB page does attract the usual mountains of anti-libertarian hate speech from those who either loathe, fear or just don’t get libertarianism. But 6,660 Followers is a good start.
Libertarians and Religion
A common charge from many uninformed people is that libertarians are all or primarily atheists. Yet a quick Facebook search turns up pages and groups with names like Libertarian Christian (23,915 Followers at this writing), Catholic Libertarians (12,625), Jewish Libertarians (3,634), Muslims for Liberty (3,579), Libertarian Hindu (133) and, yes, The Libertarian Atheist (20,407).
Libertarians of nearly every religion seem to find much in common with their libertarian beliefs and their religious beliefs. One website calling itself “The only Libertarian Religion” even claims that “Of all the philosophies and religions on this planet, there is only one that is truly libertarian; and that is Hinduism. Not any form of Hinduism but the Dravidian Aaiyyanist form.”
Atheism is, of course, not a religion even though some people attempt to call it a religion.
Understanding the etymology of the word makes this simple to understand. It comes from the Greek “atheos” in which “a” means “without” and “theos” means “god.” Simple.
Yet others insist that anyone who doesn’t subscribe to one or another god-worshiping preference cannot possibly have any morals, as though religion had somehow obtained a total monopoly on morality.
But atheism also comes with a lot of Cold War baggage. Since the official policy of the Soviet Union was atheism some believe that all atheists are communists.
For whatever reasons, many libertarians have split off into their own atheistic subgroups like “Non-Religious Libertarians,” “LGBT Atheist Libertarians” and the 634 members of the non-religious “Libertarian Freethinkers of KC” Meetup Group.
Find theists, agnostics, atheists, humanists, freethinkers, secularists, non-theists, anti-theists, theological non-cognitivists and there you’ll find libertarians.
Leave it to government to claim that “All men are created equal” and then divide everyone into official classifications of race, ethnicity, and subcategories of race and ethnicity – with no means of identifying what is steadily becoming a population of undefinably mixed ethnic-racial individuals – even as science is telling us that race is a biological myth.
Socially and culturally we’re also constantly being divvied up into other classifications, primarily for political reasons. Still, many people choose to self-identify in many different ways including racially or ethnically or socially or culturally or economically or any combination of uniquely distinctive ways and libertarians are among them. A little Googling will turn up online sites for many self-descriptions, including for Black, Latino, Asian, and white libertarians.
As for that last part – why are libertarians predominately white middleclass males – that is changing.
A 2016 article in Newsweek incorporated several surveys to blow up the old white male libertarian stereotype and discovered “the libertarian label is embraced by a more racially and ethnically diverse group of individuals than some may realize, but tilts male.”
It found 71 percent are Caucasian, 14 percent are Latino, 5 percent are African-American, 8 percent are “other” and 4 percent wouldn’t (or couldn’t?) self-identify. The conclusion was that Americans who self-identify as libertarian reflect the racial and ethnic demography of the US more than is commonly realized. The male-to-female gap is still there (63 to 37 percent) but definitely closing since libertarianism’s early days.
Is This the Libertarian Spring?
If there is to be a Libertarian Spring it will take more than just politics. As the Objectivist community has pointed out, politics is merely the practical application of philosophy. The philosophy must come first before a theory of politics can be developed and identified.
Because of that libertarianism, as a philosophy, must become widely identified and embraced throughout the culture before it can develop into the basis for establishing a free society. Elitist ruling interests will never willingly give up their grasp on power, wealth and ego demands without a fight, meaning they will cling desperately to everything that libertarianism despises – coercion, intimidation and fraud. But there is hope that it can be achieved:
“Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.” – RPI News, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, July 2011
Thankfully there are many libertarian “think tanks” working toward that future Libertarian Spring.
Libertarianism is a state of mind, not just a political party. Libertarians are everywhere now.
References and Links
Libertarianism in American Politics
Explains how Modern American Libertarianism “is a principled alternative to conservatism and progressivism, both of which, at base, represent authority against liberty.”
Libertarians Are More Diverse Than We Think
The popular media stereotype of libertarians is disproportionately white and male. But the libertarian label is embraced by a more racially and ethnically diverse group of individuals than some may realize.
Race Isn’t Biological, It’s a Social/Political/Cultural Construct
There is no biological basis for “race.” Under “Genus species subspecies” we are all “homo sapiens sapiens” no matter skin color or other physical features.
Free Market Environmentalism
Government and its crony corporatist partners cause more environmental harm than free people, and they’re worse at cleaning up the damage done to the public domain than free people are at cleaning up their own domains.