“Why do you attack other libertarians? Why don’t you attack the State, instead?”
I’m a guy who finds myself in a lot of conflict with his peers, and nearly every single time I write or make a video about it, I get asked this question. “Why do you attack other libertarians? Why don’t you attack the State, instead?”
Well for starters, I do attack the State. There’s almost 400 articles on this website and over 150 videos on my YouTube channel, and in most of them I am not talking about other self described libertarians. Unfortunately, most people tend to focus the very small amount infighting that I do engage in.
It is important to note that in each of those conflicts, I was very specific about why I engaged the opponent. So I am slightly confused about all the questions. If you are curious as to why I went after somebody, simply view the content where the target was mentioned, and I’ll be very specific as to why I engaged the target. In some cases it was because the target actually attacked me, and I was only responding to their attacks. In others it was because they said something so contradictory, that I felt it needed to be pointed out. In any case, specifics about particular conflicts are beyond the scope of this article.
Still, some people think it is just better to toe the party line. Go along to get along. I couldn’t disagree more.
The strength of libertarianism is also its weakness. That is, the simplicity of the message. Initiatory force and fraud are forbidden, all else is permitted. This is a strength in that it is very easy to understand, it is (or should be) nearly universally acceptable, and it is inclusive of all non-aggressive preferences. It is also a weakness, in that any deviation from this very simple concept, completely defeats the purpose.
If libertarianism forbids aggression, but permits taxation, for example, then libertarianism is every bit as contradictory and nonsensical as every other philosophy. To permit taxation, is to permit aggression, it is to cede the argument to the opponents of libertarianism. Either the non-aggression principle applies to all, or the non-aggression principle does not apply at all. If a government has the rightful power to tax, then it necessarily must build a force capable of coercing its subjects into compliance. If that force can coerce its subjects into compliance with taxes, then there are no limits to its coercion.
If libertarianism forbids aggression, and something other than aggression, then it must necessarily permit aggression. To forbid something, is to say its presence may be dispelled by force. When we say that aggression is forbidden, what we mean is that we will use force to defend ourselves against it. If we then say that libertarianism forbids, say, racism, then what we are saying is that it is permissible to aggress against those who we perceive to be racists. With all the race paranoia the race baiters push, we can imagine living in an extraordinarily violent society once that becomes the case, and we will have ceded the argument to the opponents of libertarianism.
If libertarianism forbids aggression, and puts any limits outside of proportionality on defensive force, then it necessarily permits some forms of aggression. If one has not the right to use of force in defense of say, a paper clip, this means that theft of paperclips is permissible. It means that force in defense of property is subject to an outside determination of value, and since value is subjective, this creates a wholly inconsistent philosophical platform, and thereby cedes the argument to the opponents of libertarianism.
Luckily, libertarianism itself is consistent and makes none of these contradictions. The deviations in question are a result of human error, and not chinks in the armor of this body of thought. Those human errors, whether intentional or malicious, attack the core foundation of libertarianism. They are an infestation that requires serious attention if we are to avoid the public perception of the philosophy being rendered meaningless, and frankly, we may already be too late.
There are those who have set out to make their living by creating internet content marketed to libertarians. I do not fault them for this, producing entertaining and educational material is a perfectly legitimate trade. The problem we run into is, since libertarianism is very simple, it can be difficult to produce enough content about it to earn a sustainable income. For those reasons and others, these content producers frequently stray from the core principles, making the aforementioned contradictions. They try to add to, and subtract from, libertarianism as they see fit, in an effort to remain interesting. If they have a large enough platform, if enough people take them seriously, then these errors threaten to diminish not the philosophy, but the public perception thereof.
There are others who I sincerely believe do similar harm out of malice. Whether it is because they are infatuated with the State, or because they despise private property, or they are simply miserable people who want to destroy something beautiful, the outcome is the same. They call themselves libertarians, and say “libertarianism is X” or “libertarianism should be Y”, “libertarianism must evolve” in the same way statists say a constitution is a “living breathing document” subject to interpretation based on the whims of public perception at the time. How much good has that done for the cause of human liberty?
We have seen time and again how the State, and even “left anarchists”, change the meaning of words to suit their arguments. We have repeatedly seen the disastrous consequences of this dishonesty. If words do not have meaning, then contracts cannot exist, meaningful human communication becomes impossible, and violence reigns. If there was ever anything worthy of negative attention, it is this pattern of behavior, and so I take fingers to keyboard to bring said attention.
Still, there are those who would say I should attack ideas, and not people. That, if someone acts erroneously, or even out of malice, that I should attack the concept, and leave the individual out of it. Again, I could not disagree more. Naming names is an important practice that too few have the courage to engage in these days. If I had a dollar for every time some coward made a direct response to this blog without naming me or linking back, instead starting with “there’s a lot of talk about X” or “some people have said Y”, it would far exceed my AdSense revenues. There are influential people who regularly read this blog, and respond to it without giving me my due. When I link to them, they discard my pingbacks, my video responses, and even my forum registrations. I take this as a severe form of disrespect, of intellectual dishonesty, and as proof that deep down they know that their ideas cannot stand up to scrutiny.
So even when I have nothing but disgust for a person, I show them the intellectual integrity and respect of naming them, quoting them, and linking to the content I am responding to. I do not deny their registrations, or moderate their comments, in fact, Antonio Buehler was my 3rd most engaged reader in 2013. I have no interest in taking ideas out of context, I want my readers to check the source material and verify that what I am saying is true.
It also serves the purpose of encouraging that person’s audience to consider an alternative perspective. Part of my business is search engine optimization and social media marketing. To the extent any one person can, I understand the way Google organizes search results, and Facebook makes page suggestions and decides what posts show up in user’s news feeds. By associating my content with the names of the individuals I am responding to, these systems also associate the two. This is why clicking “Like” on a post from Christopher Cantwell.com’s Facebook page, will suggest Julie Borowski as a similar page, and vice versa. It is why posts of mine will get more engagement than posts from people with larger audiences, and why my reach grows larger by the day. It is why Google searches for individuals I’ve named on this site, show my website in the search results. By naming individuals, the audiences of those individuals are exposed to the content critical of them. This is very important if you want to critique a person’s ideas. This is the same reason they do not name me, they want to critique my ideas, without ever giving their audience an opportunity to hear the other side.
Conflict makes content relevant, and drives engagement. For all the complaining people do about libertarian infighting, the analytical data that I monitor constantly, says they just can’t get enough of it. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out, simply browse the first few pages of recent posts here, and check the Facebook like count on each post. The pattern you will find is very easy to understand, the posts pertaining to conflict, have more engagement than posts that do not. This is a pretty universal fact, nobody ever read a book, or watched a movie, that didn’t have a conflict. Whether it’s Tony Soprano’s struggle to balance his life as a mobster with his desire to be a good person, or Jack Bauer trying to stop a terrorist attack, conflict, and the desire to resolve it, is what motivates the human mind. If tomorrow, all the problems you have today were solved, your mind would immediately seek out, and if necessary, manufacture, new problems to solve. Through constant engagement in conflict, I am able to produce a steady stream of entertaining content for my audience, without the deviation from core principles that my targets engage in. In every single case, I have included some core issue in that content. So while some people may come here to read a gossip column, they are inadvertently getting an education in libertarianism at the same time.
As I explained in a previous article, infighting is a good thing. It is infinitely better that people should watch anarchists argue, than they watch Republicans and Democrats argue. The human mind has limits as to how much information it can process, which is why Republicans and Democrats create so much pointless partisan bickering. An endless sea of fools are watching John Boehner pretend to be at odds with Barack Obama, and trying to decide if they should vote for Mitt Romney or Hillary Clinton in 2016. I far prefer them to consider which of two stateless solutions they should choose. So long as people are trying to decide whether the State should be abolished or severely limited, they are terribly unlikely to consider its expansion. So long as people are trying to decide if the State should be abolished through force or negotiation, they are terribly unlikely to consider its existence as legitimate. So long as people are trying to decide whether race is a non-issue or something that should be relentlessly harped on by anarchists, they are terribly unlikely to consider passing more laws about it.
Ultimately it serves the purpose of holding individuals accountable. If someone is a charlatan, or just plain doesn’t understand the ideas they claim to be an authority on, then they should be held accountable for their dishonesty. Their audience should know to question the validity of their assertions, and seek out other opinions. If the person makes a habit of being disingenuous, then people should stop taking them seriously.
So, why do I attack libertarians? I don’t. I defend libertarianism by purposely manipulating content distribution platforms, by undermining inconsistency, and by creating entertaining content that is also educational.
But most importantly, I’m having so much fun. Why aren’t you?
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