James C. Banks

Libertarian Enemies of Liberty

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Writers often begin posts like this one by stating that their assertion seems like a paradox.  Mine doesn’t “seem” like anything: It simply is a paradox.  Nonetheless, I know of no greater threat to liberty than the libertarians of the present age.  They are not a threat to liberty because they are extreme and give credit to reactionaries.  Libertarians are extreme; but we live in extreme times and resolving a deficit of $14 trillion requires extremity.

Libertarianism weakness is not its extremity, but its fashionableness.  Libertarianism, while it never succeeds at garnering more than five percent of the electorate, is nonetheless preeminently fashionable and always tries to maintain its status as such.  To be fashionable in America at this time also means to be cosmopolitan—libertarians hate, or at least claim to hate, the death penalty, bourgeoisie family life, nationalism.

To an ideological libertarian—one well-versed in Rothbard and Hayek—sitting atop their Mt. Olympus looking down on the lives of the small and quaint peoples going about their everyday business, this might seem perfectly natural.  After all, these things are prejudices which are, after all, impediments to reason.  However, prejudice—almost as frequently for worse as for better—is the basis of liberty for the vast majority of citizens.  It is in defense of prejudices (or irrational preferences) that people take to the streets with signs and blow-horns.

While it is true that liberal cosmopolitans, such as George Soros, bankrolled freedom movements, these movements were motivated by ideas which individuals like Soros or Ayn Rand would have disdained. East Berliners did not tear down the Wall out of an abstract desire to go where they pleased.  They tore down the Wall out of a desire to go to West Germany.  Jewish Soviet dissidents, like Natan Sharansky, didn’t dissent out of hate for the Politburo (though this came in time), but for their love of Israel.

Nationalism has a mixed record in the twentieth century and it has, to say the least, popularly legitimized regimes which the world would have been happier for never having been able to name.  However, in a world in which a disturbing number of people think of themselves as “global citizens” it is one of the few barriers to wandering statists seeking to impose an elitist philosophy of right.  Without concrete prejudices to defend, liberty is merely a brittle frame that can be broken and scattered with one wave of the hand, and, as libertarian cosmopolitans are ever busy working to hollow it of its content, this outcome becomes increasingly likely.


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