What is the greatest, most ultimate aim of the libertarian movement? I imagine it means many things to many people, but a single word can sum up all of those disparate ideas: freedom. Freedom of conscience, freedom of action, freedom to agree, freedom to disagree, freedom to think, say or do whatever you please, in any manner you please, so long as you aren’t infringing upon the rights of another.
It happens to be true that I’m a left-libertarian; specifically a geolibertarian. I believe in a fourth natural right, that of an equal share to the common resources that nobody worked to create. I’m sure that is quite a contentious statement; I know that many fervently agree and disagree with it. That’s not the point. Through it, I can accept various actions of the government that imperfectly reflect that fourth right out of the pragmatic conviction that a steady movement towards liberty as I conceive it is better than no forward march at all. Out of these convictions, earnestly held, I at various times supported the Libertarian Party, the Libertarian Reform Caucus, and now the Democratic Freedom Caucus and the President they support, Barack Obama.
I know full well of Obama’s problems. He would not have been my first choice, certainly. But it is my belief, as a libertarian and a pragmatist, that on the whole he has made this country a better place than he found it. I realize full well that that too is a contentious statement, but for just about my entire adult life I have been a part of a political movement that welcomed and embraced contention, as we were all marching towards the same goal – liberty.
What I have seen now is that several friends that I have stuck steadfastly by, even when the rest of the movement had deserted them, are now abandoning me because I do not meet some right-libertarian purity standard. Certainly, that’s their right – freedom means the ability to cut ties with those who you wish to cut ties with, for any reason or for no reason at all. But when some of these people were with me in the Libertarian Reform Caucus, advocating openness and inclusion in our movement politic in the face of dogmatism and absolutism, it does seem a little odd.
It certainly isn’t the first time that the liberty movement has seen such outbursts in what I can only describe as ritual shunning. Ayn Rand’s Objectivist cult, so well satirized in Rothbard’s Mozart Was A Red, operated along the same lines – either agree with the party line or get shown the door.
I always figured that such rigid, unfree thinking was the exclusive province of our opponents. Today, I’ve learned for good that it was not.