There are a couple of topics that keep coming back up after I thought I'd said everything I could possibly say about them. One is abortion/ reproductive rights. Another topic which has some overlap with that one due to the crucial issue of bodily sovereignty is libertarianism, addressed previously in A Liberal Libertarian, and The Republicans have hijacked libertarianism. Apparently I need to revisit the discussion.
I am blogging about it yet again because of recent conversations on Facebook with intelligent and well-educated liberal friends who, despite their considerable knowledge in other areas of politics, have expressed profound misunderstandings about libertarianism, such as:
* There is nothing whatsoever liberal about the Libertarian Party.
* There is no such thing as a left-libertarian.
* The LP only recently approved legalization of cannabis to profit rich white men.
* Libertarians do not support marriage equality and/or LGBTQ rights.
* Libertarians and the Tea Partiers are one and the same, far-right-wing conservatives.
* The Libertarian Party is a branch of the GOP and/or is going to take over the GOP.
Because I disagreed with their beliefs, I was told that I'd been "duped" and ought to "educate" myself. Rather, they have been duped as the result of a very successful campaign by the GOP Poseur "libertarians." The Poseurs have effectively managed to sway public opinion by emphasizing the aspects of libertarianism that they prefer, while downplaying the parts that make them uncomfortable. I will address each of the above misconceptions.
"The Libertarian Party is in no way liberal."
In fact, the American Libertarian Party has its roots in classical European liberalism of the 1600s, when the term "libertarian" at that time referred to “left-wing anarchism” or anarcho-socialism. I refer the interested reader to these links which may help clarify:
Libertarians Against Capitalism
In order to understand modern libertarianism, it is necessary to understand its origins in classical liberalism. The Party platform states: "The protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government." This echoes John Locke, who established in 1689 the basis of liberal political theory: that people's rights existed before government; that the purpose of government is to protect personal and property rights; that people may dissolve governments that do not do so; and that representative government is the best form to protect rights. This philosophy emerged in protest against authoritarian governments in league with the church, feudal lords and mercantile guilds oppressing the common citizens.
The Platform further states: "We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized." The object of classical liberals was free participation in the marketplace, personal liberty and civil rights, separation of state and religion, and peace instead of imperialism.
Classical liberalism split off into two branches, conservatism and social liberalism, in early 20th century America. Conservatives focused on protecting economic civil liberties, while liberals emphasized defending social civil liberties. Both branches diverged from the pure classical liberal philosophy that government exists to protect social and economic civil liberties. The Libertarian Party has attempted to recapture the classical position by being at the same time both "fiscally conservative" and "socially liberal," rendering it largely unpopular among most Democrats and Republicans.
"There is no such thing as a left-libertarian."
Hello - I'm here! A real live one, and I'm not alone, although we are the minority in the Party today. It is unclear exactly whence my educated and intelligent friends obtained their inaccurate information about libertarianism, but I think it is safe to say that I am probably more knowledgeable on the topic, having been involved in the movement myself for around 40 years. I have never belonged to the Tea Party or ever voted Republican. I am a flaming liberal. The card in my wallet says "Libertarian" only because "anarchosocialist" was not one of the options when I registered to vote.
I first encountered the Party at a rally in 1978 in Honolulu where I gave a speech protesting the potential revival of the draft, in solidarity with the libertarian antiwar protesters. The "fiscally conservative" aspect of their philosophy was less appealing, but I chose the Libertarian Party over the other options because the central planks of its platform - individual liberty, bodily autonomy, civil rights and peace - most closely allied with my own core liberal values inspired by people like Leo Tolstoy, Emma Goldman and Noam Chomsky.
"The LP only recently approved legalization of cannabis to profit rich white men."
Not true! One of the things I appreciated from the beginning was the Party's stance on legalizing drug use and other victimless crimes. This idea did not originate with rich white men, but rather, was a truly grass-roots (pun intended) movement begun by libertarian hippies of various ethnicities and gender identities. It has taken us a very long time to finally convince rich white men of the merits of this policy.
"Libertarians do not support marriage equality and/or LGBTQ rights."
Not sure where this came from. Civil rights, including the right to marry whomever you choose and the right of consenting adults to engage in whatever relationships they desire, have always been central to libertarian philosophy. Libertarians do not believe that government should interfere with anybody's private business including sex and marriage. Maybe my friends have confused the Libertarian Party with the Tea Party here.
"Libertarians and the Tea Partiers are one and the same, far-right-wing conservatives."
This brings us to the essential difference between the Tea Party/ Republican Poseur "libertarians" and real libertarians. The former, as represented by people like Paul Ryan, may claim to be "libertarian," but the card in their wallet says "Republican" for a reason. I can call myself a "duck" and even make some quacking noises, but that doesn't qualify me as a duck. While there is some overlap between Tea and Libertarian with regard to economics, there are also significant differences.
The Tea Party Poseur "libertarians," true to the conservative branch of the classical liberal split, focus almost exclusively on "economic liberty" or what they believe to be "free market capitalism," the deregulation of Wall Street and industry, allowing corporate "persons" free rein to mercilessly exploit consumers, employees and the environment. The sort of deregulation they advocate, however, under our current system favoring big corporations would further tilt the already unlevel playing field, impeding competition by small businesses and entrepreneurs - the essence of crony capitalism. Despite voicing alleged objections to crony capitalism, the Tea Party candidates and their funders have actually benefited from it. The Libertarian Party actively opposed crony capitalism in its 2016 platform, which is probably why the Koch brothers did not fund Johnson's campaign despite their previous interest in the Party. The only other candidate to specifically address the issue was Democrat Bernie Sanders.
Unlike libertarians, Tea Partiers are socially conservative, closely allied with the Religious Right, and want to "put God back in government," whereas libertarians tend to be less religious and want to keep religion out of government. The Poseurs do not support bodily autonomy, but are anti-choice, opposing assisted suicide, marriage equality and legalization of drugs. While they strongly advocate for the liberty of corporate "persons," they prefer to keep actual persons on a very short leash. In fact, the whole idea of individual liberty - people being allowed to live as we please, provided that we do not infringe on anyone else's civil rights - is a scary concept for the Poseurs. That is why their faux version of "libertarianism" downplays civil liberties, so as to make it more palatable to Republicans. On social issues there is no question that the Libertarian Party has far more in common with the Democrats than Republicans. Gary Johnson said that he and Bernie Sanders agreed on 73% of the issues in 2016, differing only on economic policy.
"The Libertarian Party is a branch of the GOP and/or is going to take over the GOP."
The Tea Party, not the Libertarian Party, is a branch of the GOP, for the same reason discussed above: their respective stance on social issues. As for the notion that libertarians are going to take over the GOP, it's simply not going to happen because there is no way Republicans would ever support the socially liberal part of our platform! If anything, the reverse is true. Republicans have infiltrated the libertarian movement in attempt to make it more conservative to advance their agenda and, unfortunately, they have somewhat succeeded, as evidenced by public opinion expressed by people like my liberal friends.
In summary, the Libertarian Party has some overlap with both Democrats, the "socially liberal" side, and Republicans, the "fiscally conservative" side, as shown on this diagram. Libertarians are a diverse group of people ranging across that spectrum. And yes, contrary to what you've been told, some of us are liberals, and we tend to vote Democrat, especially in close races and critical situations like the 2016 election, when Johnson's running mate Bill Weld even recommended doing so. I am a living, breathing example of a left-libertarian and I'm sure I am not the only one, despite the influence of the Poseurs trying to push the movement in a more conservative direction over the 40 years that I've been involved. Of course, most likely nobody will listen to me, their minds having already been made up for them by Poseur propaganda.