The Libertarian Movement Needs to Work Together

Regularly I see those on both the left and right wings of the libertarian movement battle each other out on philosophical traditions and obscure definitions that mean nothing to anyone except for the philosophers who wrote of them. Now while I’ll never condemn this debate, it is when these discussions move away from debate and towards vitriolic argument that the problems begin in the libertarian camp. This is seen quite clearly with Noam Chomsky’s treatment of anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians as not worthy of the names of anarchism and libertarianism, harking back to their respective philosophical traditions and ignoring a potential ally in the move towards a stateless society. We see similar issues with right-libertarians, particularly on social media, where many disparage left-libertarians and their ideas without realising that their ideas aren’t necessarily incompatible with those of anarcho-capitalists and right-libertarians. Sheldon Richman’s statement on what left-libertarianism is, “Left-libertarians favor worker solidarity vis-à-vis bosses, support poor people’s squatting on government or abandoned property, and prefer that corporate privileges be repealed before the regulatory restrictions on how those privileges may be exercised. They see Walmart as a symbol of corporate favoritism—supported by highway subsidies and eminent domain—view the fictive personhood of the limited-liability corporation with suspicion, and doubt that Third World sweatshops would be the “best alternative” in the absence of government manipulation. Left-libertarians tend to eschew electoral politics, having little confidence in strategies that work through the government. They prefer to develop alternative institutions and methods of working around the state” (Richman, S. 2011)[1] shows quite clearly that many of the ideas espoused by left-libertarians are in fact completely compatible with the prevailing concepts of right-libertarian thought. Indeed, going back to left-libertarian critiques of right-libertarianism, many such libertarians, including Chomsky, recognise that free markets in the sense defined by many libertarians don’t exist in the modern neoliberal order, again showing ideological similarity and not inherent and irreconcilable differences.

I believe the main problem here is that libertarian political senses are still basing themselves in the right-left political paradigm, which itself is a construction of neoliberal intellectual elites that want to discourage genuine debate and make a sideshow of political discourse. By doing this, we as libertarians are sidelining ourselves, much like the New Left did in the 70s and 80s. We need to realise that we are nowhere near the point where we can begin truly debating how a libertarian society can be constructed, as big, pervasive government continues to loom over every aspect of our individual lives. Many libertarian thinkers have realised this, including Carson, Long, Richman, Rockwell and the late Rothbard, and have thus encouraged camaraderie between different schools of libertarian and anarchist thought and not created unnecessary divisions. If we as libertarians are to be serious about influencing the course of politics and economics in the direction we want to see it go, then we must put aside petty differences and work together.

[1] Richman, S. (2011). Libertarian Left. Available: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/libertarian-left/. Last accessed 9th Apr 2015.

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