Jeez, it can be hard to be a libertarian!
We are known as the pot smoking, delusional, “tin foil hat -wearing”, non-caring, pacifist, crazies of the political world who don’t care about people and are inept at winning elections. But, these labels couldn’t be further from the truth.
Libertarianism isn’t as much of a political philosophy as it is a life philosophy. Big “L” libertarianism is nothing more than the political outlet to combat the anti-libertarian, anti-freedom mentality that results from every form of government intrusion.
So, I’d like to address some of these misconceptions.
“You just want to smoke pot.”
The reality is that many libertarians don’t smoke pot or do drugs, but if they do, they don’t really care that it is illegal for them. However, the War on Drugs is representative of a large number of injustices that have been created by our government over the years. We care deeply about the other lives that have been ruined because of the lies and propaganda from our government.
“Well, you can’t win elections.”
It is true that historically we have not won elections, but there are serious barriers that make it extremely difficult for us. The cards are heavily stacked against us by the two-party system in so many ways that would take up another article. Ideally, we don’t really want to win elections, we don’t really want to run for office or be a part of the political theater and we don’t want to tell others what they can and can’t do, but our current system is forcing us to immerse ourselves in the political arena.
“You are crazy and delusional.”
The road to libertarianism is filled with the gut-wrenching realization that everything you think you know and everything you have been told may not be true and if that is “crazy,” then so be it. Some libertarians arrived here because they recognized that things just don’t seem right, but many have been exposed to some form of injustice as a result of the government or the many busy bodies that feel they have the right or need to tell others how to live their lives. And for most of us, that experience sparked a dive into trying to understand what appears to be so unfair and wrong to us. We then start studying history and economics and philosophy in an attempt to make sense of it all and we find so much available that provides the answers. And we often uncover grave injustices throughout history. We, alarmingly, see the potential for duplication and this can make Libertarians appear to be crazy or smug, annoying and arrogant, but it is only because in most cases we have put the time in studying how freedom could be the answer to our woes. We get very frustrated because the truth is so apparent to us that we cannot understand how others can’t see it. But, if you take the time to talk to a libertarian instead of dismissing us or getting turned off by our attitudes, I guarantee you will meet a person who is extremely well-read with a very cogent approach to the troubles facing mankind.
“You don’t care about people.”
We are also described as the folks who don’t care about helping others, or don’t want roads, or any other number of things that really make no sense. But we know that, throughout history, people have taken care of each other, arguably much better without government intervention. Several of the thousands of good examples include police arresting individuals for feeding the homeless, incarcerating people for trying to make a living without government permission, and burning the tents of the homeless. Libertarianism is about compassion more than any other solution. We care the most, not the least.
In addition, the core of the philosophy is the individual. This is especially problematic, since modern society seems to focus on the “collective.” We don’t recognize Muslims, Blacks, Females, Homosexuals and the list goes on and on. But not because we don’t care, we simply recognize the individual and every individual has the same rights, regardless of who they are, or what nationality they are, or any other factor that could somehow distinguish them as a “special” group of people. We care more because we do not believe in any special privileges or punishments based on any group because every individual is equally important to us.
“You have this weird thing called the Non-Aggression Principle.”
The core of the Libertarian Party is the Non-Aggression Principle. Each one of us voluntarily (because we don’t believe in force, ever) signs an agreement to support the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP. This means that force is never acceptable unless there is a provocation. To many, this just adds to the negative perceptions of a Libertarian, because it’s out there and can be difficult to understand. But, it’s actually one of the simplest tenets we have. It just means that each individual has the right to do whatever they want as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. This does not mean chaos, it does not mean people running amok in the streets, it doesn’t mean being selfish and it does not mean that there are no consequences when someone’s rights are infringed upon by another. Even further, it means that we support a mechanism that that will decide if an act that has been committed violated someone else’s rights. However, we do not typically believe that a governmental entity, with the high level propensity for corruption and the collusion it breeds, is necessarily the right venue for that. We believe in a “real” justice system. We -believe the individual and the private market is the superior arbiter in every situation. And we are firmly against any initiation of force by our government against any country or individual who has not violated the NAP. If you want to call that pacifistic, we will accept it, but not as an insult rather a compliment.
You see, we are very realistic. We are not “crazy”. We know there are “bad” people out there and we know that we will never eradicate “badness.” But we also know that when you make laws, rules and restrictions, it’s typically only the good people that are punished. We believe that our current laws are corrupt and written to benefit special interest groups and lobbyists and there are way too many of them. We know that there is no such thing as utopia and that there will always be problems, but we also know that the way we are doing things now is not working and we believe that we offer better solutions to these problems.
As I try to combat the labels, it is important to recognize that, while we have solutions to most of our problems, they cannot be communicated in sound bites. Our society has become one where everyone is looking for that single sentence or phrase that will make you feel better. “Make America Great Again” and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. No discussion of what is a great America or what is going to be done to get us to that imaginary place. The answers to every question are easy enough to come by, though. You just have to ask if an individual’s rights are being violated. And those rights are natural rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And it requires never using the word “but” or “except” after every proposal. The Republican Party believes in being fiscally conservative, “except” when it comes to the monstrous military spending bills they support or the numerous social issues that don’t bode well with them. The Democrats believe in providing “free” stuff for everyone or in some cases just certain people, but the money to pay for it comes from force.
And speaking of “free”, we fully recognize that nothing is free. We understand sound economics and how government interference is always bad. We know what regulation and taxes do to people. We know that any system of government is teeming with corruption and greed.
This is not complicated and it’s not tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theory. We know we have been conditioned to believe that it is and the “powers that be” prey on that. They want us to believe that we are incapable of running our own lives or making good decisions and they instill fear and hatred, because without it, they cannot accomplish their goals. And it is extremely painful to see so many people eating it up. We see the reality of so many people who are beholden to the false sense that we need leaders and rule makers for society to work.
To be sure, libertarians come in all forms and to all extremes, but if you take away the labels, you will realize that we are trying to actually improve our lives and instead of debating about whether it can happen, we are doing it.