May 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
The Skeptical Libertarian, that brave bastion of libertarian thought, has taken upon itself the task of cleansing the liberty movement of those “unscientific” fools who have the audacity to take positions which it finds inappropriate. For those unfamiliar with their modus operandi, it’s a rather simple beast to understand. Take a particular aspect of libertarian thought. Say for instance, skepticism of large biotech or pharmaceutical corporations and GMO products in general. The Skeptical Libertarian then takes a contrarian position and in the process buries its opponents beneath a thick layer of pretentiousness which paints the opposition as unscientific and gullible imbeciles unfit for the rigors of even semi-intelligent discourse. In other words, if you’re skeptical of certain aspects of modern society then you must necessarily be a regressive fool hell bent upon taking us back to the good old days of puritanism and witch hunts. As Tom Woods points out, The Skeptical Libertarian is skeptical of actual skeptics. So I suppose that means the title Skeptical Libertarian is a very roundabout way of stating an allegiance to the status quo.
This “approach” has led The Skeptical Libertarian to take some rather odd positions for a libertarian. Probably the best example is their habit of supporting industries and specific corporations which no level-headed libertarian would touch with a ten foot pole. They have targeted the skeptics of GMO food products, vaccines, and the biotech/food industry in general. In particular they have made it a point to defend the large corporations which produce these items. It’s at this point that I part ways with The Skeptical Libertarian.
There is nothing necessarily un-libertarian about discussing certain conspiracy theories and rumors which are far too common amongst libertarian circles (although it may be a fruitless endeavor, as discussed here). However, The Skeptical Libertarian finds itself on much shakier ground when it begins to fully support some of the very institutions which epitomize the much maligned “crony capitalist”. A quick glance at the numbers makes that much blatantly obvious. Take for example one of the largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the United States, Pfizer. In 2012, Pfizer spent $10.45 million lobbying for favorable federal legislation. Similarly, Monsanto, The Skeptical Libertarian’s central love affair, reeks of crony capitalist legislation. And all of this ignores the numerous ways in which the federal government restricts entry to the market via regulation and IP protection.
The people at The Skeptical Libertarian undoubtedly understand this. They must realize that corporations like Monsanto are imperfect and cannot be held up as examples of the market’s benevolent forces. Whatever their stance on GMO’s and vaccines, it must be recognized that these institutions are as far from market entities as the Federal Reserve. It’s is true that genetically modified foods are a product of human ingenuity and have saved countless lives. However, that does not prove that the present GMO, vaccine, or other biotech markets are a product of a free and prosperous market. The truth is that these markets are in fact very restricted and power is very centralized. This centralization of authority almost always leads to some forms of abuse. How that abuse will manifest itself is still unknown. The important point is to recognize that associating libertarianism with an industry so deeply in bed with the state is a recipe for complete disaster. The vast majority of the unwashed masses and their knavish overlords at MSNBC and Fox News do their best to push the idea that corporations like Monsanto are free market entities. The Skeptical Libertarian and libertarians in general would do well to distance themselves and their ideas from these organizations. GMO arguments aside, all libertarians should agree that any private industry dependent on the state for its very survival is not private at all.
May 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
There was a time when the forefathers of modern libertarianism, then known as the classical liberals, were the true “left” of the ideological spectrum. Indeed, the origin of the left/right spectrum dates back to the French revolution. It was at this time that the “left wing” of the hall was occupied by the radical, classical liberals while the “right wing” held the conservative supporters of the ancien regime. The distinction was very clear. The left supported individual freedom while the right supported the old order of monarchic and aristocratic rule.
Somewhere along the line, the distinction of “liberal” was stolen by socialists and social democrats who took a very confused, half-baked “middle ground” approach. These new liberals cherry picked pieces of the classical liberal and the conservative movements and created an unrecognizable and dangerous ideology. Somehow, the socialists and social democrats were also able to take control of “the left” and with it, the radicalism and idealism which has forever been a magnet to young, inspired minds. What occurred In France was replicated many times across Europe as well as the United States. By the middle of the twentieth century, classical liberalism was essentially dead. Today, we live in a society where these new “liberals” have a near monopoly among journalists, intellectuals, and the youth in general. Granted, there are a number of intellectual and journalistic organizations which have carved out their own small niche in an otherwise barren wasteland of ideas. While these groups may prove to be the bedrock upon which classical liberal ideas revive, it’s unlikely that much change will result from their existence alone. It is clear that in order for liberty to have a chance at long term survival, there must be a shift in the way society views it. If our goal is not for libertarianism to simply survive, but to thrive, then we as libertarians must take the initiative to deliver our message in a way which is appealing to the idealism and revolutionary spirit of the youth.
I’m not proposing that libertarians attempt to take back the monikers of “liberal” or “leftist”. Labels are meaningless; it’s the ideas that matter. Besides, “libertarian” has a very definite meaning in the English language. Especially in the United States and increasingly in the UK the word “libertarian” is associated with free markets, individualism, and a rejection of all forms of collectivism. Thus, attempting to win back a name is undoubtedly a waste of time and energy.
What I am proposing is the revival of the long, rich history of classical liberal radicalism. I’m proposing that libertarians return to our roots and champion the cause of liberty with the type of passion, clarity, and heart which is can be found in the works of classical liberals such as Nock, Mencken, and Bastiat. I’m proposing that libertarians, whether utilitarian or natural rights, anarcho-capitalist or minarchists, religious or secular – whatever! – put aside their differences and fight the intellectual battle against our common enemy: the state.
To be clear, this is a battle of “minds and hearts”. Violence is necessarily antithetical to the libertarian movement. Our movement is one of peace and voluntary association, not some brutish attempt at a political power grab. To the libertarian, such political maneuvers are considered equally as violent and destructive as direct physical attacks. While other ideologies long to take control of the state apparatus in order to implement their own twisted designs, libertarians long for the abolishment (or at the very least an extreme reduction in the power) of the state apparatus.
Thus it is my personal challenge to the liberty movement, a ‘call to arms’ so to speak, to once again take the progressive stance. To expose modern liberalism as the ugly face of the ancien regime wrapped in the thin veil of “equality”. To correctly label those on the “left” and the “right” for what they are: conservative, regressive, and antithetical to the good of mankind. In short, to take back the radical spirit which is rightfully ours.