Libertarian Infighting is a Good Thing.
I recently posted a message requesting suggestions for my next article, and a reader posted about libertarian infighting… “How division among various freedom groups will be our undoing unless we work together”. So I decided to write the exact opposite.
But I’m not just doing this to be an asshole. I think it’s actually a really important point, and before this article ends, I promise there’s good news in this for all of us. There are perpetual squabbles going on between libertarians, it’s been going on for longer than the word libertarian has been in common parlance, and despite the prevalence and popularity of libertarian sparring matches, it is still so common to hear people condemn them.
I like to refer to the condemnation of libertarian infighting as “The Unity Card”. It’s such a popular thing inside the “Liberty Movement” to tell people to put their differences aside and work together. It seems like we’re always at each other’s throats, and it’s sort of impossible not to notice that if you’re involved. Wishing we were all on the same page and working to achieve the same goals instead of going after one another seems to make a lot of sense on its face, but I think it’s important to recognize that we don’t all have the same goals, and that’s sort of the point of everything we do.
If we all wanted the same thing, it would be terribly unlikely that we’d be having any of these discussions. We’d all be following the same central plan, the State would be on our side, we wouldn’t be arguing with each other, we’d simply be playing our part in achieving the greater good. The whole point of freedom is recognizing that we don’t all want the same thing. The goals of individuals are not only different, but competitive. For me to achieve my goals, actually necessitates me preventing you from achieving yours in many cases, and that’s where the source of libertarian infighting often lies.
The easiest example is the constant argument between limited government types, and anarchists. If you still want to “restore the republic”, if you think the US Constitution is a great idea, I’ve got news for you, we’re on different teams. I seek the abolition of the State, and so the last thing I want is a more tolerable State. Comfort is a slave’s worst enemy. I want people to see the government as foreign and dangerous, so if you spread the idea that people have to get involved and participate in that system, then not only do I think you’re terribly misinformed, you’re actively working to undermine my efforts. There are only three possible outcomes to this conflict,
- We both fail
- I fail and you succeed
- I succeed and you fail
There is no possible outcome where we both get what we want. Either only one of us succeeds, or both of us fail, we both cannot win. Therefore I not only cannot assist you in achieving your goals, I have to try to stop you from achieving them.
Just a few days ago I was in Manhattan with the 9/11 truthers for a rethink 9/11 event. One would think that if you wanted to turn people against the government, telling them it murdered 3,000 of its own citizens, in order to predicate word war III, would be a hell of a start. But surprisingly enough, a lot of these people are liberals. They think the government staged 9/11, and somehow the answer to that problem is to, raise taxes? I’m sorry, but that’s just plain madness, and not only do I not want to assist you, I feel compelled to work against you.
My recent drama with the FSP provides another great example. If I think the only way to achieve liberty in our lifetime is to fight back against the aggressors who call themselves the State, and you perpetually call for people to do anything but fight back, then we’re necessarily competing for hearts and minds. Someone is either going to realize they have to fight, or they are going to think they are somehow obligated not to, they necessarily cannot adhere to both ideas at the same time.
My turn to play the unity card.
The good news is, this doesn’t have to mean we can’t be friends. The problem is not that we fight, the problem is how we fight. If we are confident of our positions, then it shouldn’t bother us to argue about them. In fact, the more loudly we argue about them, the more people will hear it, and the more likely we are to bring people to our side.
If I want to abolish the State, and you want to shrink it, then I think that’s a far better conversation for people to hear, than what most people are hearing today, which is “How rapidly should we expand the size and scope of government?”. As long as people are watching us argue over whether the State should even exist, they aren’t watching Mitt Romney and Barack Obama bicker over which country to attack next. If people are questioning whether the State should shrink dramatically or simply cease to exist, they are terribly unlikely to entertain the rapid expansion thereof. So by arguing with each other over our differences, we’re simultaneously undermining the current system and attacking a common enemy, which brings both of us closer to our goals. Even if only one of us can ultimately succeed, it’s surely better than both of us failing.
If we both think the government is lying about 9/11, and we argue over what to do about that, it’s a lot better for people to hear that argument, than it is to hear two warhawks agree with the 9/11 commission report. We can both achieve the common goal of undermining the current system, even if our endgames differ.
If I think the only way to bring an end to statism is through force, and you think the only way to bring an end to statism is through some multigenerational phasing out of violence from the human psyche, then I think it’s a lot better to for people to hear us bicker over how to abolish the State, than it is for them to hear people argue over whether to abolish the State. If people are entertaining the question of how the state should cease to exist, they are terribly unlikely to entertain the notion of the State being legitimate.
So the goal in all of these arguments, and so many others should not be to stop the fighting, the goal should be to better publicize them and make them more entertaining. This stuff is really interesting. It makes for good text, audio, and video content. Not only can we all further our mutual and competitive goals, we can actually turn a profit from it at the same time. Talk about a win win…
The only time this becomes a negative is when we shut down the lines of communication, or resort to force against each other. If we care about freedom, the first thing we should understand is that the answer to bad speech, is more speech.