One of the more common tragedies within the liberty movement is people leaving after becoming disillusioned. Generally, it is perceived that that might be a sign they weren’t all that invested in the first place. More often though they make a crucial mistake that many of us once upon a time did: we confused the liberty movement with the Libertarian Party. It’s an easy enough mistake to make. Democratism and Republicanism are both defined by their respective parties so believing the same of the LP makes sense for the uninitiated.
Making the claim that they are one and the same is not only detrimental, it is factually false. The Libertarian Party is meant to be the principled party built on the concepts and ideals of libertarianism. Let’s get cause and effect straight here. The LP is built on the liberty movement, not the other way around. The fight for liberty has been around for far longer than the LP, and will continue to be around well after. The fight of the liberty movement isn’t America-centric either; it’s universal wherever people yearn to be free.
I understand the disillusion. If one were to look at how the 2018 midterm election went with the LP taking less than 5% of the vote the thought would be “the liberty movement is dead.” While there are a lot of errors to answer for, this isn’t specifically to take a shot at the LP, but to explain why we can’t pretend that they are the embodiment of the liberty movement. The LP is more than happy to push this bad argument that they are the only vehicle we have, and that’s part of the problem.
If we want the liberty movement to advance we need to remember what defines it. It is not defined by a committee or charter or accord. It is not defined by one organization’s leadership. It has never been defined by these things the ways that other movements or parties have been defined. The liberty movement is built by the people and defined by its principles; no more and no less. The liberty movement is not restricted by something as arbitrary as partisan politics and institutions.
Harvey Milk fought and succeeded in many of his battles for the liberty of the gay community in San Fransisco in the 70s, and did so as a Democrat. The 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson, was a former Republican. Ron Paul as well was and still is a liberty-oriented Republican and responsible for many that have joined the movement in recent years. Many other candidates over the years have fought to advance the freedoms and liberty of all, and most were not part of the LP even slightly. While I personally have many disagreements with her, Ayn Rand (who opposed the libertarian movement of her time) has also done a lot to inspire people to walk the road to liberty and learn more about the ideals of libertarianism.
While a lot of the ideological work did indeed come from those that identified or at least held sympathies with the libertarian movement, most of the actual accomplishments rest on those outside of the party. To be fair, a part of that is due to the stranglehold that other parties have on modern politics, but it still stands that the liberty movement marches on with or without the LP. One can support, engage with, and be part of the LP, and should be encourgaged to do so. It needs to be recognized though that the LP is only one of the many tools we can use; not the only one.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.