“There is no left vs. right, there is only the State vs you” a mostly true, and popular saying in libertarian circles, with many variations. The left right paradigm of “Time to choose whether the State controls your money or your mind” is surely ridiculous, and sane people should reject this. The State should (does) not exist, and we all should be (are) in control of our own faculties, mental, financial, and otherwise.
On the other hand, it’s kind of stupid for us to forget that many people are still stuck in this paradigm.
The Ron Paul campaign should have made that abundantly clear, as anarchists found themselves standing next to people holding signs opposing immigration and gay marriage. A problem that did not go away with the good doctor’s retirement from electoral politics. As sure as participation in politics is still accepted in libertarian circles, so is advocacy of restrictive immigration policy, and localized tyranny over a long list of behaviors. So long as they focus on guns, free market economics and lower taxes, right wing conservatives can go unnoticed in libertarian circles for a long time, and even gain a degree of prominence, but this doesn’t stop them from voicing their statism once that prominence comes.
Likewise, there is no shortage of liberals in our midst. They can go unnoticed by many for periods of time, because they will tend to focus their energy on things libertarians agree with them on. Issues like police brutality, inequality under the “law”, drug policy, corporate welfare, etc… Since liberals tend to be loud, in your face type of activists, with little regard for laws or social norms, often collecting government benefits that allow them to be full time activists, they can gain themselves a good degree of notoriety in libertarian circles. This however does not mean that they give up their core beliefs on political correctness, equality of outcome, and the rejection of defense, and once they gain that notoriety, they will use it to advance their statism.
There are upsides to teaming up with both factions of course. Libertarians are few in number, so when we team up with incoherent ideologues who make a living out of preying on society’s irrationality, we make ourselves look bigger. The Ron Paul campaign provides the best example of this. Main stream media cameras focused on throngs of Born Again Christians standing next to pro-abortion, anti-war leftists holding the same signs, giving us the appearance of a political demographic worthy of being courted by politicians. Another great example was the civil disobedience dance party at the Jefferson Memorial in DC, which most libertarians would attribute to Adam Kokesh, but was largely manned by Code Pink left wing activists. There are a lot of “conspiracy theorists” in libertarian circles, and if you’ve ever attended a 9/11 truth rally, you’ll notice no shortage of the featured speakers are semi-prominent liberals, which, in the minds of some, grants a certain degree of legitimacy to the words being spoken.
On the other hand, if any of these things had any considerable impact on actually getting people to reject the legitimacy of the State, it has yet to be seen. The Ron Paul campaign wound up largely in the hands of conservative Rand Paul supporters like Julie Borowski. The dance party turned out to be a huge win for Code Pink, whom Adam and I found ourselves confronting at an anti-gun rally a few months later. Getting purported 9/11 truthers like Van Jones into the White House, certainly didn’t do anything to advance liberty, and anyone who purports the answer to government oppression is to further empower government, only hurts our cause.
For certain, libertarianism is a small but growing demographic, and the more it grows, the more those who seek political power will attempt to court us. Unfortunately, when they do so, they don’t all of a sudden drop their desire to oppress others, they just cater their rhetoric to make their oppression more palatable to libertarians.
The easiest example of that is Rand Paul. He staged a 13 hour filibuster (which didn’t delay or prevent a single thing) that was marketed as being against drones, but in reality, was anything but. It was actually a very narrow objection, to the president using drones to kill American citizens on American soil who were not in the course of an actual attack, without congressional approval. Only under those very specific circumstances did Paul disapprove. If the person was not an American citizen, but on American soil and not involved in an active attack, no problem with the president using a drone to kill him without Congressional approval. If Congress approves of it, the President can kill anyone anytime with any weapon. If it’s a local police department doing the drone killing, no problem. American overseas? No problem. Not quite sure? Better safe than sorry. But, quote some Lysander Spooner, talk about the constitution, do some pointless grandstanding over Obamacare, and the Julie Borowski’s of the world will forever be your apologists in libertarian circles.
This does not advance liberty, quite the opposite. It convinces people that this is liberty. “Well, if Julie Borowski and Rand Paul are prominent libertarians, and they say it’s okay to tax and murder people, then taxation and murder must be acceptable under libertarianism”.
Any attempt to oppose that is met with accusations of “hurting the movement”. Well, you’re just dividing the movement! How dare you point out the obvious hypocrisy! These people are simply recruiting warmongers and religious zealots to our side!
On the other end of the spectrum, liberals infect nearly every libertarian circle I’ve been exposed to. How many of your Facebook friends have a Guy Fawkes mask for their avatar? The victimhood industrial complex, as the Foundation for Economic Education so elegantly put it, is out in full force. Scream at police on the side of a highway, oppose a war you fought in, and all of a sudden libertarians will listen to you spout on about social justice, wage slavery, and corporate greed, swallowing whole your entire line of bullshit because, well, you’ve gained a certain degree of recognition for the arguably good works you once did. “Well, if so and so is a prominent libertarian, and so and so embraces political correctness and equality of outcome, if so and so thinks self defense is racist, then I guess that’s what libertarianism means!”.
None of this should come as a surprise to anybody. Statists hinge their entire existence on redefining words. “A well regulated militia” no longer means an armed citizenry skilled in the use of arms, it means “National Guard”. “Freedom of Speech” no longer means being able to say what you want, it means being able to say that which is pleasant. “Federal Government” no longer means a federation of States, it means One Nation Under God, Indivisible. “Peace” no longer refers to an absence of violence or coercion, it means the threat of violence against you is so severe that you don’t dare disobey. “Equal Opportunity” means favoring protected classes for employment over better qualified straight white men. This list could go on for an eternity, and only the most educated among us can detect the differences.
This is not to say that libertarians should further isolate themselves from society, but perhaps courting enemy ideologues is not the way to go either. Libertarians perpetually try to infiltrate organizations run by opposing ideologies, whether it be the ACLU, FreedomWorks, the major political parties, or the State itself, we try to organize the organized, a lesson from the leftist publication Rules for Radicals. This strategy has repeatedly failed, as our infiltrations backfire, and our message gets corrupted instead of our opponent’s.
Liberals and other statists are far better suited for this kind of infiltration, because they don’t have rules. If your goal is to undermine private property and individualism itself, even an incremental approach makes a world of difference. Making one comedian issue a public apology over a joke makes all comedians think twice, and thinking twice about telling a joke is sure to ruin an act. If your politician is willing to drop one bomb on a country, that country’s retaliation is inevitable and your full blown war is just moments away.
Meanwhile, libertarian theory is sort of fragile in the sense that minor violations really defeat the purpose. You can’t call yourself a non-aggressionist and just support lower taxes, taxation is impermissible. You can’t say you believe in self ownership and simultaneously subscribe to this collective salvation nonsense. The moment they get you to buy into any portion of their bullshit, your entire argument is shot to hell.
Any effort to grow “the movement” then, I think has to be done by reaching the uninitiated. Recruiting at non-political public gatherings, public schools, and college campuses, instead of inviting the enemy inside the gates at political functions. Instead of commiserating with Republicans and Democrats over Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, appeal to Justin Bieber fans when their idol is arrested for a victimless crime. I think it’s a lot easier to convince impressionable young minds that it’s wrong to use violence against people, than it is to convince statists that the State can’t do what they’ve dedicated their lives to making it do.
As for dealing with the infiltrators already amongst us, I say call them out on it, and if they will not repent, ostracize them. The impressionable minds among us are harmed when we take seriously the social justice fanatics, left wing economists, politicos, warhawks, and xenophobes. Our recruiting efforts are pointless if we allow these enemies inside the gates to undo our good works. If that causes us to lose numbers in the immediate future, so be it. That cost is small compared to the larger danger of turning libertarianism into some mangled, half breed offspring of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.