Can Libertarians Make Alliances with the Left?

Recently a reader reached out to me via email (you can, too) about whether or not alliances can be made with non-libertarians on the Left. I sent him a reply that I thought was worth posting here for your thoughts:

I think there are definitely alliances that could be made with the Left on some issues, such as the surveillance state and the War on Drugs, and when possible they should be made. From a practicality perspective, we can’t afford to turn down allies.

The problem we get is when these alliances are made on vague grounds or they aren’t articulated well as being limited in nature. Libertarians should reach out to the Right or Left, but we shouldn’t compromise our beliefs in order to cater to them, and we should be clear about where those differences are. This is how the whole thick/thin debate occurs.

People don’t have to agree on everything, but there should be respect towards those with differing views as long as they are intellectually honest.

Inasmuch as libertarians like Cantwell believed the outreach to the Left has been an unmitigated disaster (a view I share), and despite Rothbard’s failed alliances with the Left following the great Betrayal of the American Right, I think cooperation on a limited, controlled scale is a separate issue from trying to make libertarianism big enough to include cultural Marxists. If we are able to turn the Left on the state, or find areas where they too seek to reduce its power in a way that doesn’t lead to an unbalance in political violence, then we should exploit it. But we shouldn’t confuse their cooperation with a conversion to Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism.

Likewise, same thing that should be done with the Right. Rather than cater to them by diluting our philosophy, we should work with them when it benefits us but not sacrifice our beliefs for their sake, nor should we pretend they’ve concerted to our beliefs.

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2 Responses to Can Libertarians Make Alliances with the Left?

  1. Thanks for posting this.

    I’d like to add some thoughts on this:

    Libertarianism as a philosophy is wide and is a “big tent.” Thus, by this standard, one can be a “cultural Marxist” and be a libertarian, insofar as he adheres to the non-aggression principle. So I’d consider left-libertarians like Sheldon Richman, Roderick Long, Gary Chartier, and Joseph Stromberg as principled libertarians (though several left-libertarians are not true libertarians).

    Having said that, if we consider libertarianism as a movement, than we shouldn’t adopt big tent strategy for big tent’s sake. We should make alliances that will help us achieve more liberty in our time, but we should be careful with regard to whom we entrust leadership positions. In this sense, I think “right-wing” libertarians such as Chris Cantwell or Tom Woods are more trustworthy with regard to leadership than any of the folks at Free Talk Live or the Keene left-libertarians (though I heard the “Freecoast” libertarians are far more intelligent than the Keene libertarians).

    So while I’m not quite exclusivist as Cantwell may be, I’m not inclusive for inclusivity’s sake.


    • The Question says:

      We should make alliances that will help us achieve more liberty in our time, but we should be careful with regard to whom we entrust leadership positions.

      This is incredibly important, and that’s where I see libertarians sometimes acting naive about who they give the reins of an organization over to. Thankfully, Lew Rockwell has done well at keeping the wrong people away from leadership roles in the Mises Institute.


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