The Existential Threats to Libertarianism

There are only two dire threats to libertarianism The first is the threat of tyranny to all forms of independent thought (libertarian or otherwise). This is easy to see: Stalinism wasn’t a problem for libertarians; it was a threat to humanity.

In America, a free and orderly republic, the state is a problem, but certainly not an existential threat, to libertarianism. It’s in dictatorships that the state represents and immediate an existential threat to libertarianism and other expressions of conscience (as those regimes by definition oppose freedom and destroy liberty where they find it).

There is, however, a second kind of dire threat to liberty that one does find even in America: the false and dishonest use of libertarian terms for illiberal ends. Those who, for example, use the terms free market, liberty, and peace while committing themselves to the opposite are the greatest present threat to the liberty movement.

False, unchallenged descriptions of libertarianism – often intentionally and self-servingly delivered – threaten the health and life of the liberty movement.

Libertarians can well hold their own against Left and Right. We are skilled in defending ourselves rigorously, diligently, and zealously against the rival views of our liberal and conservative friends.

False libertarians are, by contrast, a grave threat. Some were once truly libertarian, but now use libertarian rhetoric for reactionary or left-wing ends. Others were never libertarian, but garb themselves in liberty and markets as sheep’s clothing.

Honest and sincere people of the Left and Right cannot see us truly if others use the rhetoric of liberty for illiberal ends.

Our long and reasonable way of life, espoused long before anyone first spoke the very word libertarian, deserves a full defense against the cold, cynical distortion of our beliefs for illiberal ends.

One wishes this defense were unnecessary. Sadly, it has never been more necessary.

One might hope to do a thousand other, simpler things. It does not matter – it is this thing, this full defense of our philosophy – to which present circumstance compels us.

Posted originally on 3.7.12 at Daily Adams.

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