Once more there is an attempt to define libertarianism as something more than simply being against the initiation of violence or aggression against an innocent person or their property. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again until it gets through. If you believe in the Non-Aggression Principle, you are a libertarian. You are not required to hold any social, moral, cultural or religious view beyond this. From a libertarian perspective, this is all we should be concerned about.
Some, however, are not content to leave it at that.
Yesterday Jeffrey Tucker, CEO of Liberty.me and the publisher of Laissez Faire Books, wrote an article in the Freeman titled “Libertarian Brutalism.” In it he states that there are two groups of libertarians, the humanitarians and the brutalists. The brutalists, he writes, need to go.
So what’s so bad about brutalists, you might ask? Brutalists are people who want to be free but for reasons that aren’t considered couth or acceptable.
You are free to read it yourself and decide what you think, as well as the response of one anarchist who doesn’t care being labeled a “brutalist.”
Here’s my thought on Tucker’s article. It is the wrong direction to take, and it’s sad to see someone like him, who has the ability to influence so many impressionable people, write something guaranteed to divide the liberty movement rather than unite it behind a common belief. He also uses arguments one would expect from a progressive or liberal when he accuses people of harboring “antisocial” behavior.
Really, this is akin to the feud between Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli during the Protestant Reformation concerning the issue of transubstantiation (whether the bread and wine used during Communion actually turned into the body and blood of Christ) – a non-fundamental issue becoming a wedge between people who have more in common than less.
Libertarian anarchy is not a social revolution. It is a political philosophy that respects people’s rights and requires consent before one has authority over another. That is it.
The trouble is that there those who wish to see the liberty movement as something bigger. It can’t just be about freedom and independence. Additionally, you cannot simply want to be free. You have to want to be free for the right reasons.
To me, this is dangerous thinking. A person who wants drugs to be legalized because they think the War on Drugs is a wrong because governments cannot tell people what they can and cannot put into their bodies and such government action leads to the loss of civil liberties and a person who wants drugs to be legalized so they can use them without being arrested can both be libertarians. The type of social environments they wish to live in, however, are different.
Those who disagree might call me a purist, but what we are dealing with is the fundamental definition of libertarianism. If you believe someone must hold certain views about women or other humans – beyond their right to be left alone – in order to be a libertarian, then what do you do when they do not hold these views? If you don’t have a concrete definition of what you believe, then how do you expect anyone to accept it and understand it?
What’s funny is that those of us who are called “purists” are treated like we are not inclusive enough and are trying to keep the movement small. The exact opposite is true. We do not require someone to hold our religious or moral convictions. You can be a Puritan or a libertine and be a libertarian, because neither violates the Non-Aggression Principle. But a libertine cannot tell the Puritan that he has to accept his moral choices in order to be a libertarian.
The fact that Tucker had to add an adjective to “libertarian” by calling them “brutalist” libertarians infers that they are still in fact libertarians. With all the problems in this world, why are we nitpicking at the precise motives people have to want to be free, when there are plenty of people out there who not only do not wish to be free but are content to use violence and coercion to prevent other people from being free?
Libertarianism simply teaches that people have a right to be free to do what they please -for whatever reason they desire. They should not be required to explain or justify why they do what they do in order to receive someone else’s blessing or permission. A Christian fundamentalist does not need to explain to an atheist why he believes in God in order to be a libertarian, nor should the atheist be compelled to defend his lack of belief in God’s existence. Both can be libertarians as long as they conform to the Non-Aggression Principle. Neither one hurts the liberty movement by thinking differently than the other.
Libertarians are free to disagree with me on this. You are free to think people should believe what you do when it comes to issues of race, religion, gender, sexual morality, etc. But please do not call that libertarianism. Call it something else, because that’s what it is.
Separating libertarians based on their motives simply suggests that certain motives makes one’s freedom or liberty more legitimate than the other.