The Cruel Irony of Political Libertarianism

Thomas Paine wrote — probably to annoy me — that “those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” With the American midterm elections this week, I find myself pensively reflecting on the cruel irony of being a political libertarian. There appears to be a direct correlation between how radical one’s libertarian sentiments are and the amount of resentment felt by being ensnared by American democracy.

Libertarians are nonaggressive and essentially want to be left alone. They don’t (or shouldn’t) seek to hurt or exploit anyone. I personally would like to live in peace with all people and trade. I respect the labor of others in the hopes that they might too respect mine. We libertarians have lives we enjoy leading; friends and family to do things more fun than politicking with, music to create, wilderness to explore, a whole world of delights waiting, and some of us even enjoy moving our bodies rhymically to well-ordered sounds. We would surely all choose such activities, full of spunk and life, over participation in the jaundiced political nightmare we are currently faced with, but alas, we are not permitted to escape the fatigue of supporting our philosophy.

Market anarchists envision a world without poverty or war, where individuals are not forced to subsidize the domination of one another, nor have our own lives paternalistically guided by bureaucrats, politicians, or generals, irrelevant of how they were placed in a position of political power.

This world is possible, and it isn’t really all that complex of an idea: there should be no arbitrary political boundaries and thus no forced collectivization. Political relationships should be based upon consent and problems resolved through decentralized common law negotiation amongst the affected parties, not non-refusable legislative representation based upon geographical lines.

Libertarians form intentional communities in places like New Hampshire through the Free State project, but also inhabit substantial online communities on sites like Facebook and Reddit, where people spend huge amounts of time sharing media related to recent government hijinx, political and/or economic theory, and historical mischief. Unless one just desperately needs this sort of town crier attention, I believe most of us would prefer to leave political libertarianism behind us for good and live our values in real life without unjust interference.

I imagine living some place like Moab, Utah, where I would buy a used four-wheel drive truck and romp into the wilderness for days at a time. When I’d meander back to civilization, I’d strum a guitar, and maybe find a hardword floor to lindy hop over. I don’t imagine having to work all that much either, as I wouldn’t be funding corporate privilege or the deaths of children overseas against my will. My economic competition wouldn’t be artificially advantaged over me through the state as they currently are, and I wouldn’t face onerous regulations, zoning, and licensing laws which entrench the well-connected and severely disrupt low overhead producers such as myself. It’s not that I desire a large amount of wealth, but the American breed of political and economic strangulation is denying me the fullest expression of my humanity, and yours too.

When anarchists come up against a system of voting inside of meaningless boundaries where everyone votes on how much forced labor we should make our neighbors perform and for which ends, not with their explicit permission but through some vague invocation of social contract, we find ourselves especially embittered.

If you see a libertarian or anarchist in the next week, show them some love. Their choices unsavory, the system illegitimate; it makes for a frustrating experience to hope for any semblance of a sane political future. While our ideas might sound utopian, we think it is far more utopian to believe that a political system based upon arbitrariness and forced collectivization can lead to anything worthwhile.

We would never seek to hurt you, another peaceful person, but please, we need to get on with our lives. Help us in ending the cruel irony of political libertarianism, so that all of us Americans might now maintain the countless wasted hours and wealth the political system saps from us, and replace our fatigue once more with the joy of living.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory