A Critique of the State of Libertarianism

Some thoughts I originally posted in an online discussion concerning the various libertarian by-ways”

There’s a big rivalry right now between the paleolibertarians, left-libertarians and “mainstream” LP/Cato/Reason type libertarians.

The paleos and the leftists view the latter tendencies as establishment brown-nosers, and the mainstreamers view the radicals as utopians, sectarians, or tin foil hatters. The mainstreamers and the paleos views the leftists as communists, and mainstreamers and the leftists view the paleos as fascists.

The way the dynamics of opposition movements always play out is that they tend to split off into reformist and revolutionary camps, and socially conservative and libertine/bohemian/countercultural camps. The historic socialist movement was the same way.

I can’t say that I am personally enamored of any of the major libertarian factions. The main problem with conventional “right-libertarians” is their view of 19th century capitalism (or even pre-modern feudalism, in the case of the Hoppeans) as essentially libertarian in nature, until it was allegedly ruined by socialists, unions, and Keynesian economists in the 20th century. This is a completely ahistorical perspective, in my view. Statist movements in the 20th century were actually a reaction against the oppression associated with pre-modern societies, and the excesses of classical capitalism. There’s a reason why “the social question” or “the labor question” was the dominant issue in the late 19th and early 20th century. Because it was a real and serious issue. Some of the improvements in social conditions since that time can be attributed to technological expansion and economic growth, but to deny that the labor and social democratic parties, unions, legal and political reforms, and economic legislation played no role at all is completely ahistorical. The kind of nostalgia for the Gilded Age that you find among many right-libertarians barely exists outside of the United States where it resonates with certain American cultural traditions like tax protests and Jeffersonian suspicion of government. There’s a small but loud constituency for this view of economics in the US, but it’s not anything that will ever be politically marketable to most Americans. During a time of growing poverty and the widest division between social classes in a century, a movement that says there shouldn’t be minimum wages, unemployment insurance, social security, job safety requirements, overtime pay, food stamps, etc, etc, etc, is a political non-starter. Even Ron Paul had to tone all that down during his campaigns, and focus instead on foreign policy, the banksters, and civil liberties. Polls show that even the deep red states generally support an increase in the minimum wage. From a mainstream, reformist perspective, Ralph Nader has the right ideas, e.g. a left/right libertarian/populist campaign against capitalist excesses as well as government excesses.…/25510-truths-and-falsehoods…

Where I disagree with Ralph is that I don’t think the political system is functional enough to carry out even the modest reforms that he suggests. Hence, we need Kirk Sale’s and the late Thomas Naylor’s idea of pan-secession:…/kirkpatrick-sale-is…/

As for the left-libertarians, they’re generally a better group when it comes to economics in the sense that they recognize that big capital and big government are generally friends, not antagonists, and that the principal function of state intervention in the economy is to distribute income upward, and not to help poor people. One can disagree with some of the specifics of their approach to economics and still recognize this.

Where left-libertarianism goes wrong is where the entire body of the Left goes wrong, i.e. subordinating class politics (along anti-statism and anti-imperialism generally) to cultural politics, or even non-political cultural or lifestyle issues. For instance, in Carson’s “end of libertarians” piece, he’s basically advocating for the same stance the Left has taken for 40 years of placing social issues over and above everything else, which is a big part of why we now have gay marriage, sensitivity training, and speech codes even as we have endless war and class divisions are at an all time high. Somewhere along the line leftists started deciding that the real enemy is not the state, capitalism or the imperialists, but white people, men, heterosexuals, Christians, southerners, midwesterners, smokers, gun owners, meat eaters, rednecks, the white working class, social conservatives, pro-lifers, etc, etc, etc. Along the way, a lot of liberals and leftists also started deciding we don’t really need the traditional liberal rights of speech, religion, association, free inquiry, academic freedom, due process, etc. let alone red meat rights like the 2nd Amendment. Instead, these are just nuisances and inconveniences that get in the way of the jihad against an ever expanding list of taboo forms of discrimination.

Hence, what we now have is a plutocratic, imperialist, police state with affirmative action, public crusades of the silliest kind against alleged insensitivity, lawsuits against religious bakeries over gay wedding cakes, professional sanctions against an eminent scientist for holding un-PC opinions, and transgender celebrities.

In what way is what is being described in this article contributing to the downfall of the state, the overthrow of the ruling class, or ending imperialist war?…/bow-ties-and-slam-poetry…

(Btw, in case anyone is wondering, I’m not nearly as pessimistic as many of the above comments would seem to indicate:…/the-coming-golden-age-of…/)

In my perfect world, we would have a stateless economy comprised of individual and family enterprises, small businesses, medium sized private companies, partnerships, cooperatives, LETS, barter networks, non-statist social services run by cultural organizations, industrial syndicates managed by workers councils, Georgist land trusts, kibbutzes, communes, collectives, clubs, eco-villages, intentional communities, guilds, regional and local currencies, credit unions, mutual aid societies and mutual banks, gift economies, stakeholder democracy, consumer federations, robots doing the shit work, etc. I think that’s what anarchists and libertarians should be pushing for in the long haul. In the short term, something like Nader’s ideas or the libertarian-populism of “The American Conservative” is the best way to go.

I should add that while I have my disagreements with orthodox libertarians and an-caps, I consider them to be valuable allies against the state as most of them are in practice just good Lockean liberals or Spoonerite-individualists. Also, I am not a universalist, so I don’t think there’s one universally applicable economic or social system. What I would like to see the Pan-Secessionist Meta-Party doing is building local secessionist and municipalists movements whose adherents pursue whatever specific objectives they wish. It might be one of the types of anarchism or libertarianism, or some kind of socialism, or some relatively mainstream outlook, or some kind of religious or ethnic philosophy, or some non-categorizable perspective (like the Zeitgeist movement or the Venus Project).

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