I am getting pretty tired of these “hit” pieces on libertarianism. First there’s Slate’s never ending pile of rubbish. Then radio host Derek Hunter’s piece on TownHall, Andrew Kirell’s response, and Hunters oh-so-mature retort to that. Now, we have another piece from The Huffington Post called “Death of a Libertarian” by Brynn Tannehill.
In some ways, I suppose we should be flattered. This, in a way, is progress. As they say, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.” I guess we’re at the ridiculing stage, which is better than being ignored, but it sure does make me angrier.
The thing that I can’t get past in Tannehill’s piece is this bit:
There’s only two problems with libertarian philosophy:
1. It only works if you’re white, male, straight, and mainline Christian
2. The actual numbers don’t support any of their fiscal dogma
I love articles like these from “reformed” libertarians, because the fact that they are “reformed” gives them a kind of journalistic credence, yet they do not seem to be informed at all about what libertarianism actually is or how the libertarian movement works. Yes, libertarians are predominantly straight, white, and male. It’s a problem that Thoughts on Liberty is partially here to solve. I’d say libertarians are probably more evenly split among the non-religious, but that is neither here nor there. But the idea that freedom only benefits white, male, straight Christians is beyond absurd.
In the history of mankind, who has been the most responsible for death, destruction, and oppression? Government. States are the entities that wage needless wars to prop up their own economies. Governments are the ones that systematically hunt down and slaughter their own peoples. Governments were responsible for Jim Crow, and it was the laws of the day that condoned, regulated, and perpetuated slavery. Even in our country today, a liberal, Democratic government is responsible for the mass incarceration of millions of people who have harmed no one. It is because of government policies that two people of the same sex can’t share property, have hospital visitation, or in some cases adopt children.
To my mind, and to the mind of many libertarians, the real enemy of the non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-Christian people in this country is not libertarianism, but the government. And when you greatly limit or even, dare I say it, abolish government, you free millions of socio-political minorities.
I will freely, perhaps more freely than most, admit that libertarians royally suck at understanding the societal oppression that faces minorities in our country today. I am about to make a trip to a conference to make that argument to them. They outright deny it in some cases. But not all of them do. There are great websites and organizations, like Students For Liberty, Bleeding Heart Libertarians, the Center for a Stateless Society, the Institute for Humane Studies, who engage with these ideas and are encouraging libertarians to think of solutions to these problems for free people. I don’t deny that libertarians very often have issues recognizing these problems as legitimate, but there are also scores of them who do and who are developing free solutions for a free world—for everyone. This is not a problem of libertarianism, it is a problem with some libertarians, and it is a fixable problem.
Are there problems with libertarianism as a philosophy? Possibly—but that depends on what type of libertarianism you’re talking about. I’m not sure it ever occurred to these folks that libertarianism might have various nuances, sects, or people with different ideas about what liberty means. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who thinks that libertarianism is a single ideology never bothered to stick around libertarianism long enough to see all of our infighting, and therefore isn’t qualified to talk about libertarianism.
Libertarianism is a multi-faceted ideology, with a diverse group of adherents who all think different things about what liberty means and how best to achieve it. I would expect a writer deciding to write on libertarianism to know at least that—but they might have had to look on Wikipedia to find that out.