The Damage of the Libertarian Brand

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In the last two days, critics on Twitter have taken me to task for pointing out in two blog posts (see here and here) that school vouchers are anti-libertarian. They say that there is nothing wrong with libertarians supporting vouchers because (1) vouchers supposedly make things better; (2) vouchers supposedly transition toward the libertarian ideal of separating school and state; and (3) vouchers give parents “choice” on where to send their children to school.

I maintain that vouchers more deeply embed the state in private education, that vouchers are not a transition to educational liberty, as we have seen with the 30-year voucher system in Milwaukee, and that people who receive stolen money from thieves have more “choices” too.

Most important, however, I point out the undeniable fact that school vouchers violate the libertarian non-aggression principle, which is the core principle of the libertarian philosophy. If libertarians support programs that violate their core philosophical principle, then how are they different from conservatives and liberals? 

Actually, however, the problem within the libertarian movement goes far beyond the issue of school vouchers. The fact is that the disgruntled conservatives who flooded into the libertarian movement in the past few decades have, through their advocacy of reform measures, not only induced the libertarian movement to support programs that violate the libertarian non-aggression principle, they have also, in the process, severely damaged the original libertarian principled brand. 

The result is that the libertarian brand has become one great big mush, consisting of a combination of many anti-libertarian reform measures and some libertarian principles. In the process, no one really knows what libertarians stand for, including, unfortunately, many younger libertarians.

Let’s imagine a survey taken of the American people. They are asked one question: What do libertarians stand for?

Some would undoubtedly respond, “I have no earthly idea. I’ve never even heard of them.” But I’m willing to bet that the ones who do profess a knowledge of libertarianism would answer: “Oh, that’s easy. Libertarians are part of a rightwing movement that supports school vouchers, health-savings accounts, Social Security “privatization,” immigration controls, the national-security establishment, regulatory reform, monetary reform, getting conservative free-market people appointed to head regulatory commissions, drug-war reform, tax reform, and selective foreign military interventionism.”

That’s what conservative-oriented libertarians have done to the libertarian brand. Never mind that all those reform programs violate the libertarian non-aggression principle. That principle has, by and large, gone by the wayside.

What has been the justification for endorsing these anti-libertarian measures, even while doing so under the rubric of advancing libertarianism? “We have to be practical, Jacob. People aren’t ready for freedom arguments. We have to go slowly by giving them little bites of reform. Moreover, advocating reform is the only way that libertarians can gain political power.”

As we here at FFF have been pointing out for 32 years, genuine freedom involves abolishing and dismantling every single law, program, department, and agency that violates the libertarian non-aggression principle. That necessarily entails the repeal, not the reform, of Social Security, Medicare, and all other welfare-state programs, legalizing all drug laws (not just marijuana), immigration controls, trade restrictions, sanctions, embargoes, economic regulations (including minimum-wage laws and price controls), the Federal Reserve and legal-tender laws, taxation (especially income taxation), and regulatory commissions. It requires the end of all foreign military interventionism. Perhaps most important, it requires a dismantling of the national-security state form of governmental structure (i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA) and the restoration of America’s founding governmental system of a limited-government republic.

Over the years, we have been criticized for advocating a “utopia.” But it’s not a utopia. It’s freedom. In fact, utopia implies something that cannot be achieved. Yet, the principles I have outlined above have been achieved. They were achieved by 19th-century Americans. In 1880 America, there was no Social Security, Medicare, welfare, public housing, food stamps, public (i.e, government) schooling, immigration controls, fiat (i.e., paper) money, Federal Reserve, income taxation, IRS, minimum-wage laws, most economic regulations, Amtrak, Pentagon, CIA, NSA, torture, state-sponsored assassinations, indefinite detention, coups, regime-change operations, sanctions, embargoes, and other such anti-libertarian things. How can something be considered utopia when it has been already achieved by others?

Over the years, I have been attacked vociferously by reform-oriented libertarians for pointing to those positive achievements of 19th-century Americans. The reformer have claimed that I’m suggesting that the 19th-century was a libertarian panacea. But I’ve never claimed that it was a panacea. I know there were bad things that happened in 19th-century America. All that I claim is that the things that they achieved with respect to freedom are positive achievements and, equally important, that they are achievable again. Once we re-achieve them, we can build on them and create the freest, most prosperous, most peaceful, and most harmonious society in history.

But we can only do that by adhering to libertarian principles, especially the core principle of our philosophy — the libertarian non-aggression principle. Settling for anti-libertarian reform measures will, at most, bring us reform of our serfdom. To achieve freedom, we need to restore the libertarian brand to its original principled condition. 

The post The Damage of the Libertarian Brand appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

* This article was originally published here


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