Why Libertarians Should Embrace Their Infighting

Updated on August 23, 2017
Garry Reed profile image

Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.

Infighting is inevitable with individualism
Infighting is inevitable with individualism

Seriousity and Satire From Your Libertarian Opinionizer

An article from LibertarianReality.wordpress delves into the multitudinous levels of disillusionment libertarians have been facing for decades.

It begins simply with, “Let’s face it: the libertarian movement is in shambles.”

If it’s in shambles it’s American Libertarians’ own fault that it’s in shambles. They never should have attempted to confiscate this Old World European term and try to graft it onto a modern American concept in the first place. According to Wikipedia “The first recorded use of the term libertarian was in 1789, when [English political writer and historian] William Belsham wrote about libertarianism in the context of metaphysics.”

He used it in an essay when he asked, “where is the difference between the Libertarian, who says that the mind chuses the motive; and the necessarian, who asserts that motive determines the mind…” (capital L Libertarian in original).

From there “libertarian” variously came to mean an advocate or defender of liberty, an admirer of French liberty under Napoleon Bonaparte (!), and in the 1890s a euphemism for anarchism after the French banned anarchist publications.

Several different people, including a French communist, are credited with having coined the word libertaire or libertarian to mean a new set of political positions.

Libertarianism American Style

Libertarianism For Beginners
Libertarianism For Beginners
YOUR LIBERTARIAN OPINIONIZER’S PICK: While the book’s author insists on describing Libertarianism as “first and foremost a political philosophy” those who embrace the Modern American Libertarian Movement and its Non-Aggression Principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud understand that libertarianism goes far beyond politics, reaching into every aspect of human interaction. However, one reviewer raved “Incredibly helpful in understanding the basics and differences between various forms of Libertarianism” which would make it a good “Square One” for many beginners. Infighting is a brain stimulant. Infighting is good!

Yet even though throughout much of the world “libertarian” typically means “socialist” or some other form of collectivism, in the United States it came to mean a continuation of classical liberalism, laissez-faire capitalism and “socially liberal and economically conservative.”

The Libertarian political party was founded in the United States in 1971. The Libertarian name was chosen because (quoting Wikipedia again) “The Libertarian Party viewed the dominant Republican and Democratic parties as having diverged from what they viewed as the libertarian principles of the American Founding Fathers.”

The LibertarianReality article rightly complains that self-identified libertarians appear all over the political/philosophical map in the US today, disagreeing with nearly every meaning, definition, description, principle, concept and usage from anarchist to minarchist to voluntaryist to mutualist to agorist to anarcho-capitalist to free marketeer to post-statist.

Then add to that list that libertarians vehemently disagree whether America’s Founding Fathers were really “libertarian” or not.

And worse: They even accept, reject or modify the Non-Aggression Principle (aka Anti-Coercion/Non-Initiation-of-Force/Zero-Aggression Principle/Axiom/Maxim/Ethical Stance) against aggression, intimidation and fraud to such a degree that it becomes stripped of any cohesive meaning. This leaves collectivistic anti-individualist freedom-hating enemies able to counter with Orwellianesque Newspeak in which aggression is self-defense, intimidation is persuasion and fraud is honesty right alongside war is peace, freedom is slavery, libertarian is authoritarian and property is theft.

Little wonder the article ends with “This gives good reason for disillusionment.” And that was written in 2011. It’s only become worse in the years since then.

However, contrary to the LibertarianReality article the freedom movement’s infighting is no reason to become disillusioned. It’s specifically a reason to remain optimistic. Inspired even. But more on that later. Let’s have a little fun first.

Back in 2006 your Libertarian Opinionizer was writing on his own website under the name of The Loose Cannon Libertarian concerning this very subject. The purpose of the article wasn’t meant to solve or clarify the problem but to explicitly, brazenly, savagely satirize the living bejesus out of it. That article is herewith reprinted below for these reasons:

1. It shows just how long the problem of infighting has persisted

2. It shows, despite outdated terminology – “flame war” seldom appears in print these days – how accurately the problem had already been identified

3. It shows that when a writer gets lazy he can easily go back into his misspent younger years and plagiarize himself.

The word “Litmus” is used in the title not only for its alliterative attributes but also as an inverse homage to articles in which libertarians preach against libertarian litmus tests to determine who is a “real” libertarian before they themselves define who “real” libertarians are.

Learning Libertarianism

The Libertarian's Legitimate Litmus Lessons

Originally posted February 1, 2006

In the not-distant past I've tried to help Liberals become better liberals by offering them a study outline I called "The Collectivist's Culturally Correct Curriculum." Then, after noting that a public outcry for a similar benefit for conservatives failed to materialize, I made available a very sensible learning guide entitled "The Conservative's Socially Suitable Syllabus."

Since that offering bombed as well, it's only natural that I press forward with my current contribution to the culture, "The Libertarian's Legitimate Litmus Lessons."

(Caveat: This is an in-joke. If you're not a libertarian, you won't get it. If you're a libertarian but don't have a sense of humor, you shouldn't read it. If you disagree with me, don't bother sending me nasty emails because libertarians never agree with each other anyway.)

Libertarian Evolution – Traces the evolutionary development of a typical member of the modern American freedom movement from simple individualist to science fiction fan to Objectivist to libertarian to Libertarian Party member to anarchist to Anarcho-Capitalist to radical Rothbardian-Konkinite Anarcho-Transhumanistic Punk/Rock Minimalist to simple individualist. Presentation includes illustrative slides of the socio-politico periodic table and timeline charts.

Renaming The Libertarian Party – A one-semester overview of the ongoing efforts by timid Libertarian Party members to find a non-threatening appellation for their political organization. Suggestions include such hopeful banalities as The Freedom Party, The Freedom and Responsibility Party, The Free Will Party (not to be confused with The Free Willy Party), The Liberty Party, The Liberty Penguin Party, and The Softsoap Party, the latter name designed to smuggle such scary concepts as personal sovereignty into the minds of the general populace in the hope that they will adopt the ideas without even knowing it. Prerequisites: Renaming Liberal to Classical Liberal; Renaming Socialist to Progressive to Mainstream; Renaming Imperialism to Republican Party.

Studies in Libertarian Psychology – Explores the euphoria-to-disillusionment phenomenon experienced by most libertarians when they think they see "libertarian" printed in their local newspapers, only to discover that it was actually civil libertarian, librarian, Liberian, Iberian, or LeBaron, an automobile manufactured by the Company Formerly Known as Chrysler. Course also touches on the similar delusional reading of antichrist, anachronist, and archivist for "anarchist."

Contrarian Conceptualizations of Austrian Economics – Course focuses on the fallacies of economic fallacies when considered from the viewpoint of the fallacy's beneficiaries. Students will study: the Amalgamated Glaziers Union lobbying efforts against the Broken Window Fallacy; the benefit of perpetual warfare to Military-Industrial Complex shareholders such as shut-ins and widows living on fixed incomes; the Federation of Soup Kitchen Recipient's opposition to the Free Lunch Fallacy; and, Federal Government Economists United Against Economic Fallacies. Prerequisite: Repealing the Law of Unintended Consequences 101.

Libertarian Political Science – This lecture series covers a wide range of how-to topics in the art of political persuasion. Presentations include Techniques of Stupefying Speechifying: ("The cult of the omnipotent state exerts coercion on the fruits of my labor"); How to be a Fringe Candidate and Embarrass the Party: ("Join me in the fight against hollow earth black helicopter assassination conspiracies"); Campaigning on a Shoestring ("Meet the Candidate Petition Signing and Bake Sale Event"); and The Fusion of Purity and Pragmatism ("I advocate the immediate abolition of mostly all bad taxes to be phased in gradually!") Students will write their own libertarian campaign platforms identifying themselves either as "Independent" or "Republican."

Randian Behaviorial Anthropology – Investigates the difference between being an Objectivist and being an Aynrandian. Course underscores how Objectivism requires one to think for oneself while Aynrandianism requires one to think like Ayn Rand. Classroom discussion will center on how "A is A" is a fundamental Objectivist philosophical axiom but "I don't like Moll Flanders because Ayn Rand said she didn't like Moll Flanders" is quintessential Aynrandian Copy-Catechism. Also: how an Objectivist is an egoist but how "I'm superior to you because I read the John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged three times" is just snotty. Includes group discussion topic, "Can you have a sense of humor and still be considered an Objectivist?"

Libertarian Punditry – Acquiring the skills required to become a practicing blogger or columnist with a libertarian perspective. First Semester: Understanding how "Libertarian Opinion Writing" and "Flame War" are equivalent concepts. Second Semester: Application of writing techniques which enable the student to intelligently and wittily ridicule Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Collectivists, Marxists, and Green Environmentalists. Extra Credit: Choose a niche ideology and then ridicule minarchists, anarchists, Objectivists, Libertarian Party activists, Goldwater Conservatives and/or Austrian economists.

Essays on Being Both Objectivist and Libertarian – Canceled due to virtual campus flame wars.

Amazin Book

Confusion Conclusion

Now for that earlier reason for not being disillusioned by libertarianism’s infighting, but for remaining optimistic and even inspired by it. To explain that requires more self-plagiarism, from a time when The Libertarian Opinionizer was writing as the Libertarian News Examiner. Here’s the gist:

“Those libertarians who constantly call for their fellow libertarians to stop fighting amongst themselves and work together are wrong. The infighting, bickering and nitpicking is absolutely essential. Libertarians should keep refining, defining, redefining, disagreeing, deviating and diverging: libertarian vs voluntaryist vs minarchist vs agorist vs objectivist vs an-cap vs free marketeer vs post-statist vs the next new twist that comes down the non-aggression road.

“Why? Look to the left; there's the liberal graveyard. On the right is the conservative cemetery. These are the burial grounds for ideologies and philosophies and failed values that are dead and dying. If libertarianism ever becomes dogma it will end up in its own boneyard.”

That constant commentary is a sign of a young viable, vital, vibrant, vigorous, virtuous philosophy. Infighting is libertarianism’s strength, not its weakness. Infighting is a brain stimulant. Infighting is good!

Libertarianism, after all, is an individualist idea, not a groupthink thing. Ideas come from free minds, not from The Ultimate Collectivism of Star Trek’s “Borg.” Once the last free-thinking being is conquered and absorbed there is no future, only stagnation.

Free vs Borg

Libertarian Infighting, From 2014 and Still Counting

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