Life today is freer, more educated, more mobile, materially richer, healthier and generally better than at any time in history; and yet there are factions in the liberty movement that would shame you for even suggesting it.
The Noble Savage (essentially, the belief that civilization is the disease and primitivism is the cure) has long been an idée fixe with the left; I’m learning that the liberty movement has its own version of the trope.
This is a problem.
Nostalgia for a past that never existed is at best laughable and at worst a real turn-off for anyone interested in the movement.
The anti-GMO and anti-vaccine movements are unabashedly anti-science and anti-progress. They yearn to return to a time when measles was a fatal disease and starvation a daily threat for the majority of the globe. The Paleo diet, popular among libertarians, and also based on a flawed understanding of the past, is another example of this same movement towards a mythical, utopian past which will solve all our problems.
Libertarian historical revisionism has become a minor industry, with various time periods being whitewashed as ‘libertarian.’ Constitutionalists like Ron Paul believe that the Founding Fathers were libertarian and the early history of our country was some sort of libertarian paradise. Even pirates and the Wild West have been painted as a time of cooperation.
The blindness to actual history is also a problem. It’s insulting to suggest that the old days were great, back when women and blacks were property, free blacks were terrorized, and women couldn’t be educated, etc. Do you really want to be celebrating a time like that?
Part of glorifying the past is hating the present and proposing doom-and-gloom for the future. Fascination with an imminent apocalypse shows up throughout the liberty movement, whether it’s Peter Schiff repeatedly predicting total economic meltdown or a practical interest in surviving the apocalypse. Underneath all the talk of fall-out shelters and growing your own crops runs a barely suppressed glee. To put it mildly, preppers aren’t too enamored with our civilization; to them, returning to the Stone Age might be an improvement.
Too much of the liberty movement is invested in a past that never happened, and in an apocalyptic future that never will.
To these people I say: Your glass may be half-empty but civilization’s glass it pretty clearly half-full. Your personal calibrator may be set to ‘negative’ but the world’s is set for more and more progress.
Most importantly, your doom-and-gloom is preventing people from seeing a believable, positive image of the future.
If you talk only about the past, or the end of history, then liberty has no future.
But liberty does have a future. This generation is more entrepreneurial than ever before. This generation is more libertarian than ever before. Crowd-funding is rejuvenating non-profits and small businesses. Alternative currencies are gaining power. The Internet is making political dissidence more possible
This last decade was the Best.Decade.Ever and libertarian doom-saying looks puny in the face of such progress.
Liberty has a future. Embrace it.