I’ve noticed that a lot of libertarian-minded people, while well-intentioned, have a misunderstanding of how political and social change, at least the kind that moves in a more libertarian direction, actually works. Obviously, there is never going to be a Libertarian government elected to office that immediately says, “Okay, we’re libertarians and we’re the government now. But we don’t believe in government so let’s dissolve this whole thing.”
It’s the same way apocalyptic revolutions always have the effect of creating a more authoritarian government than the one that came before (see Cromwell, Washington, Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, Khomeini, etc.)
Real change in a libertarian direction does happen sporadically, intermittently, and often paradoxically. In US history, for example, we’ve certainly seen changes in a more libertarian direction in some areas: abolishing slavery and compulsory apartheid, abolishing the draft, repealing Prohibition, the growth of the home school movement, ending electroshock therapy as a “cure” for homosexuality or lobotomies as a cure for mild psychological disorders, etc. But during the same period, we’ve seen expansions of authoritarianism in other areas, such as the growth of the public administration state, drug prohibition, overcriminalization, the prison-industrial complex, etc. Taxes are more pervasive than they once were but aggregate wealth is also higher.
On an institutional level, we also see changes that create zones of autonomy periodically (for example, the American Revolution’s institutionalization of Enlightenment ideas like church/state separation or freedom of the press in the First Amendment or the Fifth Amendment ban on compulsory self-incrimination).
On a more macro-level, we also find societies both historically and contemporarily where the levels of liberty are certainly higher when compared to others. Authoritarian institutions tend to evaporate once they lose their legitimacy and popular consent is withdrawn. The collapse of the Communist parties in the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact is an obvious example.
It’s possible for liberty to both expand and contract. Too many libertarians get caught up in “end of history” scenarios where the libertarian “last man” reigns forever. Real change is incremental, sporadic, intermittent, and often paradoxical, cyclical, or random.
Of course, it is possible for civilization-wide paradigm shifts to take place as well. It may be that at some point in the future the consensus of popular opinion will reject the state and other authoritarian institutions in the same way that the Abrahamic religions eventually superseded the older pagan religions or that the Enlightenment superseded Christendom.
By Peter R. Quinones
Just give it up already. Those who are holding onto the dream that the LP will be able to wield any significant political, or cultural power have not thought this through. An ideology of non-aggression and voluntary interactions has no place in the political sphere unless they are willing to become like the other two parties. Their message is that we are not like them. It is one of incompatibility when it comes to Machiavellian power structures.