‘I’m Largely Libertarian, But…’

A representative sample of this effort is Gary North (and it’s a fitting one, considering Mr. North’s comments about homosexuals), who has argued quite explicitly that libertarianism is to be embraced by right wing authoritarians as a means of delegitimizing the state not, as libertarians believe, as a matter of course but in order to give he and his ilk enough space to create a brutal theocracy that can ultimately replace the American government. Does that sound crazy? What about when you consider that Mr. North was chosen by none other than Ron Paul to oversee Rep. Paul’s educational outreach efforts?

The desire among many libertarians to build coalitions as a means of enhancing our political power is understandable, but these particular coalitions are indefensible, especially at a time when offhanded comments one person makes on another’s Facebook wall can easily surface a year later and circulate around the world instantaneously.

That all individuals, regardless of race, religion, gender, orientation, birth location, etc. are created equal and must be treated equally under the law is a principle at the very heart of libertarianism and the liberal ideals from which it sprang. Even setting aside the philosophical issue with rejecting that principle, as a simple practical matter the generational movement of the American electorate is glaringly in the direction of social tolerance toward homosexuals, immigrants, and other historical outgroups.

If the purpose of building coalitions is to increase the political power of libertarianism, then to ignore those obvious political trends when building those coalitions is utterly incomprehensible. It makes more sense to view the presence of people like Scott Esk and various other social authoritarians under the libertarian banner not as a success for coalition building, but as an attempt by adherents of those brazenly illiberal ideologies to co-opt the increasingly popular libertarian label and twist it, as Gary North advocates, to their own sordid ends.

Scott Esk espoused nasty, indefensible beliefs, and he is rightly being excoriated for it. But we cannot ignore the fact that the primary difference between Scott Esk and a great many self-described liberty advocates is Mr. Esk’s willingness to publicly declare what others merely leave to implication: that some arbitrarily distinguished people just don’t deserve the same rights as the rest of us.

Article after article declares itself the harbinger of the “libertarian moment” in American politics, but it’s plain to see that such a moment will never arrive as long as libertarians are so ineffective at guarding our own gates. The threatened left waits with bated breath for any opportunity to depict libertarianism as a fancy veneer over the same old bigoted, privileged right wing drivel. Libertarians can’t prevent them from saying it, but at the very least we can do our part to ensure it isn’t true. Libertarians also can’t prevent people like Scott Esk and Gary North from identifying themselves as libertarians, but we absolutely must do a better job proving it isn’t true.