Taking Back The Radical Spirit

May 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

H.L. Mencken, one of the greatest libertarians/classical liberals of the 20th century.

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.

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