“Real” Libertarians

Over at Pandagon, Amanda Marcotte has a post complaining about playing the “no true Scotsman” game with the word Libertarian:

I’m somewhat sick of the “genuine libertarians” thing, by the way.  It’s about as meaningful as saying, “There are genuine communists out there.”  Technically true, pragmatically meaningless.  “Genuine libertarians” are, in my experience, like “whole cloth pro-lifers”, the ones who supposedly are in it because they really are pro-life and also oppose war, the death penalty, eating meat, etc., and that it’s not about sex and gender for them.  You hear about them—occasionally someone says they’ve met one—but they are so few on the ground that you can reasonably say that people who consider their number one issue to be the government concealing space aliens from us constitute a more substantial voting bloc.  Most people who identify as libertarian are golf pants–wearing Republican weenies who want you to think they’re cooler than the average golf pants-wearing Republican weenie because they like Pearl Jam.

And she’s right, Libertarian in US politics is basically just an isolationist right winger, imperial ambitions being the only thing to separate them from other’s in the right wing of american politics.  They’ve co-opted the language of anarcho-capitalism, but betray it every time they stomp on personal liberty, while still holding to the “corporations can do no wrong” mantra they’ve long had.

Personally, I’ve long called myself a socialist libertarian, from even before learning that it was another word for anarchist. Anarchist is forever tainted by both the term “anarchy” which is absolutely not the goal of an anarchist and the actual anarchist terrorists of the turn of the century a hundred years ago.  Socialist libertarian, especially in the US, at least gives people pause to ask, “wait, what?” But now… libertarians in the US are so far away from anything I value… that I would hesitate to use the term.

And so I’m not sure what I would call myself now… Simply put, I think we need to distrust both public and private concentrations of power, be that government or business.  And the powerful tend to become powerful by hoarding power and seeking more– we must recognize this in order to diffuse it.  The powerful will always try to subvert any institution that seeks to counterbalance them.  I do not believe that our government is a lost cause– I am not so nihilistic as others who share my world view.  I do believe that political change is slow and painful, and so the modern non-violent direct action is equally important.  In particular, I think that shadow institutions/organizations/movements that are built on our ideals is an excellent use of our time.  (For instance, free schooling, unschooling, cooperatives of various kinds, employee owned and managed businesses, etc.) But that said, I see nothing wrong with engaging politically, as it is also useful and that we’re a big enough country to do both.  What’s more, engaging at the local level is extremely important.  If anything the right wing should have taught us, it is that.

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