You’ll know that you’re truly a libertarian the first time that some tells you are not a True Libertarian™. Other variants include scare quotes around “libertarian” when someone talks about you,

If you’re new to the libertarian movement and have been told this: First, I apologize. Second, realize that it’s also kind of a badge of honor. It means, strangely, that you are both an identifiable libertarian and that someone doesn’t want you to be. Being told ‘You’re not a True Libertarian™’ is pretty much proof that you are a libertarian, because we have all been told that.

‘You are not a True Libertarian™’ is an absolutely meaningless statement. As far as I can tell, it indicates that you do not have precisely the same libertarian opinions, beliefs, policy goals, motivations and way of speaking as someone else. Guess what? Nobody does. We’re all individuals. 100% identity among libertarians is impossible, but apparently some people like to shoot for the moon.

For those afflicted by this phenomenon, I put together a few responses to “You’re not a True Libertarian™” and its variants.

  •   Did you register that copyright?
  •   Oh really? Where did you get your license? Is there a tax, too?
  •   Is there a test I need to take? Is it pass/fail or 0-100. What did you get on the test? Can I start studying now?
  •  Oh really? Where do I sign up for the circular firing squad, while I’m at it?
  •  Pull out a laminated card: True Libertarian™. Licensed by the Department of Bureaucracy and Small Minds. To be Used Only By Those With Absolute Self-assurance. This card indicates that the bearer of this license is an insufferable expert on all things libertarian. Also, prone to logical fallacies and hates true discussion. (Coming soon! Will be available for purchase here!)

Normally, the person asking this is someone with whom you share 80-90% of the same opinions, but who is driven mad by the remaining 10-20%. He wants to help you! You’re so close to being completely right! If you would just listen to him!

For those of you so inclined to question someone’s True Libertarian™ status, here are some reasons to never, ever play the “Not a True Libertarian™” game (though, really, we all find it charming):

  • It’s a logical fallacy, and as we all know, libertarians are supremely logical (or at least they want to be seen that way). Best just to not engage.
  • Playing this game sacrifices a lot of individualism. Other people may have different life experiences, education, and ways of thinking that lead them to approach things differently. Deal with it. You don’t have a monopoly on truth.
  • It eliminates discussion, which, in case you didn’t know, is actually the path to changing minds (I won’t charge for that piece of information; it’s my gift to you!).
  • It doesn’t persuade the person you’re talking to, because you just insulted and alienated them.
  • Everybody else stops listening because nobody cares about two libertarians fighting over the name ‘libertarian.’

If you find someone you mostly agree with, here’s what you should ask yourself (Be prepared. A metaphor is about to happen): Can I share a train with these people? Even though we may not have the same final destination, are we headed in the same direction? Are we going most of the way together? If the answer is “yes,” please just stop whatever else is coming out of your mouth.

You’re never going to find someone you agree with 100%, so unless you want to ride an empty train to nowhere, consider opening up. Show how your side of the argument fits into the long tradition of libertarian thought. Show the contradictions of the other side.

It’s up to you to share your idea of libertarianism, and argue for it, and convince others. You can’t just negatively shape the movement by cutting off what you don’t like.