Commenter Individualist made an astute observation on my post about the Libertarian Republic. Referencing an apparent statement by Murray Rothbard, the fundamental question a libertarian has to answer correctly is this: Do you hate the state?
The answer to this question cuts through a lot of the nonsense we encounter within the libertarian movement – though like many questions in life, people answer them with their actions rather than their words.
The truth is, there are probably a significant number of people out there who are in fact libertarian-inclined, but don’t know it. My path to libertarianism was marked by a short period of time in this “unaware” camp.
Unawares don’t call themselves libertarians, but when it comes to Rothbard’s question, their answer is a resounding “Yes.” Chances are, the state has caused huge problems in their lives, if not disrupted them entirely. Unawares see the state as a cancer, something to be contained as much as possible.
In short, they just want to be left the hell alone, and their actions confirm it.
What separates “unawares” from ordinary libertarians isn’t so much ideology as it is a combination of what they perceive to be practicality as well as just ignorance about a political philosophy that complements their beliefs. If asked directly, they would love to get rid of government altogether, but they don’t find it to be a reasonable goal. Like a disease beyond eradication, they wish to contain it.
This is why they self-identify as “limited government,” even though they have nothing good to say about it.
I obviously don’t promote limited government from a philosophical perspective, but I sympathize with their reasoning. This is why I don’t find genuine limited government types to be opponents. They’re arguing on practicality, not philosophy. The fakes, the ones that talk like Thomas Jefferson but vote like Hilary Clinton, are a whole other animal.
On the reverse, we see a lot of self-identifying libertarians who actually don’t hate the state. Much like the Bolsheviks prior to the October Revolution in Russia, they aren’t anti-state; they just don’t like the state the way it is now.