Against Cosmo Tarians

cosmopolitanI’d like to discuss what I view as a disturbing trend in the libertarian movement.

Recently, there seems to have been resurgence in the attempt to create a Monolithic Libertarianism. Some have taken it upon themselves to decide what can and can’t be discussed. Which topics are allowed, and which are too taboo for “polite” company. These self-styled cosmopolitans have all the answers, specifically how we make an inherently unpopular ideology popular. And sometimes, it doesn’t include you or me.

We are told that libertarians can’t be “anti-science,” ie) religious in faith. We can’t be “anti-woman,” ie) support equality under the law rather than special favors; we can’t hold a pro-life position based on morality; we can’t acknowledge or accept the (scientific) fact that men and women are different in myriad ways. We can’t be “anti-war” or “anti-military,” instead we must be reasonable otherwise the War Pigs won’t like us. We can’t be “dogmatic” Austrians – we must be “scientific” you see. Many more examples abound in the libertarian info-sphere.

In short, we must all become what Tom Woods calls “Sweetie Pie Libertarians,” lest the people who want to rob and/or murder us, well, I guess continue to want to rob and murder us.

All of this is nonsense. Some of the best, most popular, and most successful at converting non-libertarians into libertarians are those dreaded braggards over at LewRockwell.com. Ron Paul, who has single-handedly brought more people into the movement than any other individual – live or dead – didn’t buy into this nonsense either. The whole thing smacks of purging, kind of like how the Rothbard-Raimondo Radical Caucus was purged from the Libertarian Party. [UPDATE: Mr. Raimondo corrected my history, noting "Rothbard stayed in the LP after the 1983 national convention: I left the party after that year, quite voluntarily." Perhaps Mr. Rothbard's unsanctimonious exile from the CATO Institute is a better analogy.] Or the Old Right purge from the Republican Party. Or the classical liberal purge from the ranks of the left. When did libertarians become so conservative? So Republican?

The truth is, there are many ways and means to convert people or popularize the movement. Methods of communication, tone, style, and content depend entirely on the audience. There is no such thing as The One True Message that will hit everyone in the world in just the right way. If I may say so, to believe such a thing would be very anti-science, anti-economic, anti-individualist. Different people connect to different messages from different messengers by different means at different times. This is a fact. It must be dealt with.

I read material from all across the spectrum, because different modes cause people to think about different topics in different ways. If we all run around talking about the same issue in the same way, we will quickly find ourselves back in 2006. Ayn Rand was spectacularly wrong on IP. But I’m not telling people “don’t ever talk like Ayn Rand stay away from her stuff.” Milton Friedman couldn’t have been more wrong on monetary policy. I still recommend his works. Hell, I even disagreed with my good friend Julie Borowski the other day. What I didn’t do, was tell her to just shut up and go away before she ruins libertarianism. I told James Miller he was wrong about vigilante justice. I still recommend this guy as one of my all-time favorite writers. I didn’t tell him he was ruining libertarianism.

I speak for many of us when I say: I am not anti-woman because I accept differences between the sexes. I am not anti-military because I oppose the wanton slaughter of innocent people over political power. I am not anti-science – in fact I am a fully-accredited scientist. Many of the “anti-science” accusers are not.

The bottom line is everyone is an individual. Libertarians should understand this better than anyone. Using persuasion is the name of the game. Creating a mob-mentality annoys and alienates more people than everyone’s subjective pet peeves put together.

So I say live and let live. Stop trying to control everything. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. And it will do more harm than good.

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2 Responses to “Against Cosmo Tarians”

  1. I agree with this article, but one correction: "… how the Rothbard-Raimondo Radical Caucus was purged from the Libertarian Party" is incorrect. Rothbard stayed in the LP after the 1983 national convention: I left the party after that year, quite voluntarily.

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