As is often the case, infighting within the liberty movement has been prevalent in the days since the 2016 election. A cultural divide has emerged between those who have a traditionally conservative mindset and those who are more culturally liberal. Both sides have accused the other of infiltrating the Libertarian Party and the movement in general due to recent outreach by those within the party.
There is a time and place to talk about the validity of such claims, but this article is not it. Rather, I see it as a necessary time to talk about the way outreach is performed toward individuals on the right and the left. Although I am far more culturally liberal than I am culturally conservative, I have no problem with reaching out to those on the right-wing to attempt to get them to accept libertarian ideals. The problem instead arises when those who are pandering to the right twist or amend libertarian ideology in order to make it more appealing to conservatives.
When speaking to someone on the right, I highlight the libertarian position on gun rights. I speak of how taxation is theft and how we want small (or, in the case of anarcho-capitalists like myself, no) government. What I won’t do, however, is change my position in order to draw them in. I will still unapologetically state my preference for full legalization of drugs and an end to excessive military spending, as well as my opposition to the enforcement of immigration controls. When speaking about such areas of disagreement, I will highlight the economic benefits while also explaining the value of self-ownership and non-aggression, but I will not become a conservative myself. I have no interest in trying to illogically justify things like a border wall or foreign interventionism with a distortion of libertarian principles.
Likewise, I believe that outreach to the left can be fruitful. Even members of a group like Antifa, with whom I’ve have a substantial disagreement over things like property rights and the use of violence, can be talked to in order to try to convert them to libertarianism. Many on the left already possess an anti-authoritarian mindset and simply need to be shown that self-ownership is true freedom. But this outreach also has the potential to go awry, just as outreach to the right does.
When conversing with a leftist, I explain to them the difference between corporatism and a true free market. I describe how libertarianism creates more chances for the poor through market competition and an elimination of crony-capitalist regulations written by big businesses. We can also find common ground on our opposition to the military-industrial complex and the drug war. But again, just as when we are talking to the right, we must not compromise our principles. I will not advocate for the initiation of violence against those on the right, nor will I denounce the fundamental libertarian concept of private property, even if those actions were to result in more left-leaning individuals calling themselves “libertarians.” I would rather have people espouse the philosophy of libertarianism without mentioning it by name than having a movement of people who refer to themselves as libertarians but advocate widespread aggression.
Outreach to those who are not yet libertarians is an important part of growing our numbers. Without such outreach, we will be doomed to the dark corners of history as an irrelevant and ineffective movement. But in the process of seeking political converts, we must not lose our philosophy, as that philosophy is what makes us libertarians in the first place. In reaching out to the right or the left, we must not become them.
You can read more from John Hudak on Think Liberty here.