Libertarians, and especially anarchistic libertarians, are known for their principles and strong ideology. This has often been, but does not have to be, a double-edged sword in the fight for freedom.
To be a libertarian, one must embrace the Non-aggression Principle, or at least come to the same policy conclusions as one would based on the principle. Some libertarians say they don’t like the principle, and yet seem to have the libertarian position on any given political question.
To be an anarchist libertarian, one must subscribe to the above, and additionally ‘ most likely due to a belief the state is inherently aggressive ‘ oppose the state itself. He or she must believe that no government is the best form there is.
‘Anarchy is the worst form of social organization, except for all those others that have been tried,’ as Churchill might have said, had he been just as eloquent but also an anarchist, as opposed to a mass-murdering, socialist, colonialist head of state.
Anarchist libertarians hold strongly to their beliefs, as we should. However, we must not be so shallow and impractical so as to dismiss the need for coalition-building, when appropriate; the goodness of reaching out, when possible; and the importance of true positive change in the right direction, however incomplete.
No government is best. But a smaller government is almost always better than a big one. Less war is almost always better than more, low taxes are almost always preferable to high, and laws are usually more damaging in greater numbers.
I will applaud the non-anarchistic man who condemns total war, rather than welcomes it. I will approve of the non-anarchistic woman who works to ratchet back the state in any given area. I will stand on the side of those who generally want much less aggression and oppression and my respect goes to those who devote their time to shrinking the domain of tyranny. It is a mistake for anarchists to choose sectarianism over solidarity, when that solidarity is genuine and can help in the cause of liberty. (Of course, it is the gravest of errors to place one’s trust and waste one’s time, on the basis of rhetoric alone, with those who, in practice, do nothing but expand state power.)
I consider myself a radical libertarian, though I also consider that label to be somewhat of a redundancy. Libertarianism, as I define it, includes radical minarchism and principled anarchism, but is itself a fairly radical philosophy.
In the context of anarchism, however, I’m starting to believe I’m a moderate.
Unlike some of the left-anarchists, I have nothing against private property, legitimate big business, profits, the concept of marginal utility, and the like. Although, I do agree with them that big business is usually allied to some extent with the state (though we may disagree on particulars) and that the poor are hardly the reason we have a big government.
Unlike some of the right-anarchists, I don’t necessarily believe hierarchy is as essential to social order as they seem to. I do not think of the cultural right and the corporate establishment as the social elements most favorable toward liberty. (Though they’re not always the most hostile.) I fall ‘left’ on most ‘personal freedom’ issues that tend to divide others. However, like the right-anarchists, I also respect tradition and don’t have much against social pressure as a legitimate device to foster cultural conservatism. (So long, of course, as this conservatism isn’t aggressive.)
I refuse to get pulled into the ‘culture war.’ Homosexuals, so long as they don’t initiate force or do much to expand state power, don’t bother me. Homophobes, so long as they don’t initiate force or do much to expand state power, don’t really bother me much, either. I have nothing against the religious. I have nothing against the secular. I think Virginia , where I was born, and California , where I now live, both have beautiful cultures, for the most part. You won’t see me bashing vegans or carnivores. I don’t happen to think that television, Christmas, video games, hunting, handguns, cigarette smoking, marijuana smoking, gambling, the Bible, the feminists, Playboy magazine, gun owners, pacifists, generation y, the red-staters, the blue-staters, the Southerners, the Left Coast, the Eastern Establishment, the Midwest, Hollywood, the slackers, the suits, the immigrants, the patriots, the ‘leftists,’ the ‘religious right,’ the atheists, the blacks, the whites, the Asians, the mongrels, the Jews, or the Muslims should be considered the biggest problem we face. The problem is the state and the ideologies that foster it, which cut through all else in society.
I don’t know for sure how hierarchical society would look without institutionalized coercion, whether labor unions will have more power or less, corporations will thrive or dissolve, or how much more or less influence the clergy would have in a stateless world. I don’t claim to know what the economy would look like. I have my preferences, but do not denounce others based on their opposing preferences alone, nor do I mistake those preferences for an ability to predict the composition of a free society. I do know that we would be freer, and thus would be much more empowered to create, spread and consume much more wealth on a voluntary and mutually beneficial basis.
I also believe much more in markets than in what a lot of the lefties seem to think will replace it. That’s because I’ve seen them work despite the state. They seem like a logical and the most productive engine for wealth creation, which is very important to anyone who believes that people should have food, shelter, and free time to pursue their dreams.
Markets are simply what happen ‘ though not all that happen ‘ when you don’t crush them, after all. So far, they’ve done the trick. And whenever the state intervenes, it hurts most producers and consumers, managers and workers, which is why I sympathize so much with the more honest among each of these groups. If under anarchy markets would be less in fashion, then I guess it’s because the free market will have made it that way.
Other ways I find myself in moderate anarchism have to do with issues other than left and right, the culture war and economics.
I believe that libertarian class theory is an important, even essential, component of anti-state philosophy. However, I also think it’s misguided to hate everyone with state power, state influence, and ties to the state, which is a rather large and all-encompassing group, when you think about it.
I believe that liberty will only come when people change their minds, and that libertarian anarchism is primarily a philosophical, not a political, movement. However, I see the importance of specific institutions and individuals in shaping society and enlarging or shrinking the sphere of human liberty, I understand that mere differences in degree can be meaningful differences nevertheless, and I do see steps in the right direction as positive and possible.
I see myself as a paleo-libertarian free-market Old Right New Left-anarchist with traditionalist and yet extropian tendencies. I envision a future in which people have colonized Mars and protected the Earth, with as many nuclear families, alternative lifestyles, home-schools and late-night raves as people happen to choose for themselves. I don’t know how many there will be in each of these categories, and, in spite of any preferences I may have, I don’t pretend to know.
Although I might seem to be an ‘anarcho-capitalist’ at times, at others I may sound more like a ‘left-anarchist.’ Whatever those terms mean.
So, aside from embracing the idea that all individuals should have the inalienable, individual rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and property; the principle that absolutely precludes the use of aggression; and other than the conviction that the state is inherently unjust, I’m really just middle-of-the road.
Perhaps my being a moderate and non-sectarian explains why I believe in solidarity with many who don’t share all my views on everything. I’ve yet to meet a libertarian who agrees with me on every single specific of every single issue (though some come damn close). It is in this sense, and perhaps only in this sense, that I believe in moderation in the cause of liberty. The cause of liberty itself, however, is a radical one, and I do not hide my radicalism in my calls for solidarity.
If ever we will obtain the radical goal of human liberty, we must sometimes use moderate means and welcome those with whom we only have moderate common ground. But to forsake radicalism itself it to lose all sense and purpose of the movement toward freedom. Without that aspiration of principled, radical liberty, the movement, and thus the moderate solidarity that might aid in it, are at best totally worthless, and at worst counterproductive and actually quite damaging to the hopes for peace and liberation.
This piece originally featured at strike-the-root.com.