Left? Right? Both? Neither?
By Scott Bieser
I am a regular reader of the LewRockwell.Com daily e-zine, which almost always has something useful to say about the Empire and its Forever War, and the state of the economy. Also, Anthony Gregory and Will Grigg have been providing some outstanding news and commentary about our growing police-state.
But every now and then I come across an article that makes me sadly shake my head. And most of the time, it is an article commenting on what appears to be Rockwell’s favorite bête noir, the “left-libertarians.” Here’s a sample, written by Steven Greenhut back in 2003:
These days, the left-libertarians who have the loudest voice in our political movement can’t seem to make a simple distinction: just because a behavior should be legal doesn’t mean it’s good. While I would never use the government to promote morality or crack down on vice, as many conservatives would do, I have no interest in erasing the line between uplifting, civilization-building behavior and depravity.
If Greenhut wants to believe that left-libertarians are depraved civilization-destroyers, that’s his right, of course. And if left-libertarians leave him feeling embarrassed to use the “libertarian” label himself, as he claims in the same article, that’s unfortunate but also his right. He (and Lew) also has a right to slam left-libertarians in the most widely-read libertarian zine on the Internet. But is that a good idea?
Let’s consider a more obscure example, coming from the other direction:
A few months back I joined a new Facebook group, “Libertarians for Arts, Music and Culture.” With just a little more than 200 members, it is pretty much at the opposite end of the popularity curve from LewRockwell.com. However, given the oft-overlooked importance of culture and its influence on politics, it could potentially become just as important.
One member, Alice Raisel, introduced herself to the group with the following remarks:
I should state at the outset that I am a post-libertarian liberal; I cherish individualism and freedom greatly, but I have become severely disenchanted with and have broken with the libertarian movement as it has actually developed, most especially on account of its increasing social conservatism. My hope is that a focus on aesthetics and the cultural conditions which encourage artistic flourishing could act as a corrective to the is drift, as Angela Keaton has suggested, but many apologies to those libertarians who preserve Enlightenment values and social cosmopolitanism if I do not invest hope here for the moment.
Raisel, by the way, describes herself on her own Facebook page as an “escort/pro-submissive” living in New Zealand who is also a member of the National Organization for Marijuana Laws. In other words, one who Greenhut and company fears is bent on destroying civilization. And despite her specific support of individualism and freedom, she rejects the “libertarian” label because she doesn’t want to be taken for a Lew Rockwell fan.
Part of me would love to get Raisel and Greenhut together for a dinner party. So long as I can get some Kevlar.
I have always been the sort who can move comfortably among a wide variety of people: conservatives, socialists, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, country-western fans, rock-n-rollers, yacht-clubbers, hippies, bikers, poets, stoners, tee-totalers, sex workers, authors, waitresses, and so on. I will of course disagree with most of them on a variety of subjects, political and otherwise.
But I do have standards, the most important of which is, does this person I’m confronting adhere to the Zero Aggression Principle, at least with regard personal interaction? Do they keep their promises? If yes, then we can be friends. If agreement with that principle extends to politics, then we can be allies, and I don’t really care whether the person dresses in pin-stripes or in a wet-suit top with a g-string under a gauzy, see-through skirt.
I’m having a hard time understanding why other libertarians (whether they want to accept the label or not), can’t adopt the same attitude. There are as of yet so few of us, and so many statists. Why limit our options for cooperative action?
Scott Bieser will be speaking at Libertopia Festival 2011 in San Diego
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