In a 1994 essay, Murray Rothbard slammed “Big Government Libertarians”for aligning themselves with political correctness and espousing establishment positions on sensitive issues. He argued that “cozying up to Power” is both unprincipled and futile.
The head of the San Francisco Libertarian Party, lamented Rothbard, was so afraid of being labeled “racist” that he actively opposed Justin Raimondo’s campaign against welfare. Rothbard wrote that the San Francisco Party was “scuttling the taxpayer and the rights of private property in favor of Political Correctness”.
I should note that while many of my readers are likely familiar with Justin Raimondo’s work, it’s doubtful any would recognize the name of the man who ran the San Francisco Libertarian Party in 1994.
In advocating for gun rights, libertarians often employ a realist argument: It’s dangerous to assume that an attacker will not harm you if you cooperate. However, in light of the Ron Paul newsletter controversy, it is increasingly apparent that many libertarians do not apply this same sensible thinking to matters of political strategy.
“If we just grovel more”, we seem to be telling ourselves, “the establishment will stop calling us mean names”.
Jesse Jackson has said that any criticism of big government is racist. Ben Stein called Ron Paul “anti-Semitic” on national television – not for failing to tout the Neoconservative line on Israel, mind you – but for invoking blowback.
Is it not apparent that yielding before words like “racist” and “anti-Semitic” incentivizes their use by our opponents?
If the opinions of Jackson and Stein gained traction, would Big Government Libertarians abandon their advocacy for less government and more peace? If so, what would remain of libertarianism?
We should be questioning the legitimacy of these terms as they are conventionally used – not giving them more power. Libertarians must stop behaving as if accusations of “racism” and “anti-Semitism” are leveled by those who innocently misunderstand our beliefs and instead recognize that they are McCarthyist slurs employed by our confirmed opponents.
The current strategy of the Republican establishment towards political correctness is to simply drop issues it affects. Newt Gingrich, for example, has urged Republicans to avoid discussing “affirmative action” – a monolithic government program that measurably disadvantages thousands of people. As libertarians, we have the opportunity to become a viable political force by standing for the silent majority on issues that the Republican establishment is too scared to address.
Conversely, the last 17 years have made it abundantly clear that libertarians will never win over those who, like Jesse Jackson and Ben Stein, would appeal to orthodoxy to silence dissent. Let’s stop trying to play the game by the state’s rules.