Saturday, January 22, 2005

Libertarianism ain't right-wing, left-wing, liberal or conservative -- it just is.

Anthony Gregory, serving as Strike The Root's guest editor for today, provides a link to an old article from Tech Central Station about political cyber-coalitions and how blogging may hopefully result in a revitalized libertarian/conservative coalition since the two sides are so gosh darned similar. He links to this article because he apparently has a particular beef with it, as do I. Below the link is this quote from the article:
"Conservatives and libertarians generally favor aggressive intervention in conducting the war on terrorism....While libertarian and conservative bloggers certainly do quibble from time to time with certain specific tactics in the war, they both believe that military action against terrorist groups is called for. In general, libertarian and conservative bloggers favored the military action in Afghanistan, and they favor it in Iraq as well....Needless to say, libertarians and conservatives generally favor a capitalist, free-market economic system, with low taxes, and little government regulation. There may be differences in degrees, but there certainly are not differences in general goals."
Following this quote is Mr. Gregory's response:
Give me a break. Libertarians are not pro-war, and conservatives do not share our economic goals of a market without coercion. I’m sick of people thinking that libertarians are simply far-right conservatives who want to legalize pot.
The tagline that he wrote for this link is "The Ongoing and Destructive Delusion That Libertarianism is Rightwing", and I agree about the troublesome and delusionary nature of such a line of thought. As someone who would like to see more dialogue and coalition building with the left, the misperception that libertarianism is right-wing is a major obstacle to overcome.

I've addressed the problem of certain right-wingers using free market rhetoric to mask some rather unlibertarian actions in previous posts, although what makes this article from Tech Central Station so noteworthy to me is it's source. Those who think that Tech Central Station is simply a site that innocently provides a space on the internet "Where Free Markets Meet Technology" needs to be aware of the old Latin phrase caveat emptor. If you want to know why I say this, may I suggest reading this article by Nicholas Confessore from the December 2003 issue of Washington Monthly. While some of the material on TCS, along with some of the contributors, may be first-rate and useful, the shilling that occurs on that site for corporations who finance it not only jeopardizes the site's committment to promoting free markets, but also serves to promote the misperception of libertarianism as being right-wing. It's also not surprising that a site that serves interests who are often in favor of preserving much of the status quo would attempt to insert a pro-interventionist message from time to time, such as Ryan Sager's "Rethinking Libertarian Minimalism". Tech Central Station, to me, seems to be more conservative than it is libertarian, which is why I say "caveat emptor" (although that advice really should be applied to any media outlet in existance). If you want to know where some of the funding for TCS comes from, check out the TCS entry at Sourcewatch (formerly known as Disinfopedia).

Rhetoric aside, libertarian goals conflict with the goals of both the left and the right since interventionism is a defining element of both sides. Defending free markets does not make us right-wing, and criticizing war does not make us left-wing. While some libertarians may be more friendly to right-wing causes, it does not mean that libertarianism in general is right-wing in nature. I don't want to be branded with that label, and I also don't want to be branded with the left-wing label for my stance on war or my critical position towards corporate power. I like to think of libertarianism as being neither left nor right, which allows libertarians to occasionally agree with or disagree with either side (or both sides simultaneously) on various issues.

While building alliances with the right may look increasingly bleak these days, I'm not trying to advocate that it be stopped. It makes far more sense to me though to reach out to the left and spend more time trying to align with them, which means that I'm naturally going to be distressed with the continued assertion of many that libertarianism is a right-wing phenomenom. I hope that explains why I'm not so cozy with those who sacrifice key principles such as opposition to war, or who continue to assert that libertarians are mere conservative offshoots while criticizing anything and everything that comes from the left. I don't mean for this to sort of imply that I'm questioning the libertarian credentials of some people. My goal is simply to put to bed, once and for all, the fallacious notion that libertarians are merely conservatives who want to do drugs in peace and occasionally speak out against war. The fact that there are many different types of libertarians, some of whom engage more with lefties and seem to be more "bleeding heart" in nature, apparently doesn't seem to be convincing enough as of yet.


Blogger Wally Conger said...

I used to talk a lot about -- and probably still do, to some extent -- building alliances right and left. I think what it comes down to is building alliances with INDIVIDUALS and a few like-minded issue-oriented groups. The Left and Right categories are too damn broad.

11:01 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home