Thursday, February 18, 2010

And Most of the Rest of the Republicans?

I was puzzled to get a note from a friend today referring to “the libertarians, and most of the rest of the republicans.”

If this comment means that libertarianism is a sub-set of republicanism, that seems to me somewhat unlikely, since, in the history of political thought, “republicanism” is frequently used to name a quasi-communitarian tendency that is directly at odds with the classical liberalism that is at the root of modern libertarianism.

OK, that may have been a cheap shot.

But if my friend means that libertarians or Libertarians are Republicans, that seems like a cheap shot, too. First, of course, there are aggressive left-libertarians, in whose successes I have more than one vested interest, who would be inclined to oppose not only Republican militarism but also Republican support for corporate privilege and hierarchy and Republican social conservatism. Second, even the right-libertarians like the Lew Rockwell crowd, would unequivocally oppose the Republicans on war and corporate privilege, and, while many of them are social conseratives, would oppose using force to impose their preferences on others, in stark contrast to the Republican right.

I’d suggest that far more Libertarians (as in participants in the Libertarian party) are right- or left-libertarians of this sort than are “pot-smoking Republicans.” There are some of the latter, of course—some Catoids may fall into this camp, for instance. And perhaps there’s some argument for labeling some (not all) of the “liberventionists” (inside and outside the Libertarian Party) who favor some anti-peace military policies as quasi-Republicans. But I think the principled small-l libertarians—committed (whether they’re on the right or the left) to peace, social tolerance, and the abolition of the privileges that give corporations and economically favored elites their power—who make up the bulk of the Libertarian party and the bulk of the libertarian movement (which includes lots of people outside the party), need to be distinguished very sharply from the Republican-lite crowd.

Justin Raimondo (AntiWar.Com seems to have been a principal focus of my friend’s comment) is surely in the former camp, not the latter: he’s a self-confessed conservative (see his book on the American conservative movement), but also an anarchist, and so fundamentally different in orientation from anything resembling the Cold War and post-Cold War American Republican party. As a supporter of and occasional copywriter for AntiWar.Com, I think it’s crucial to emphasize how far the AWC crowd (like most real libertarians and Libertarians) is from anything remotely Republican.

6 comments:

Roderick T. Long said...

There's been some talk in the media about the Tea Partiers representing the "libertarian" wing of the Republican Party, so your friend may have been thinking of "libertarians" as the name for an intra-GOP faction.

Eric Dondero said...

Libertarian = Republican and vice-versa.

Some fact:

David Nolan, Libertarian Party founder was Chair of the Colorado Young Republicans when he founded the Party.

All past Libertarian Party Presidential candidates were, or are currently REPUBLICANS, save one.

All past elected Libertarian Party legislators (Alaska and New Hampshire)were either elected on a dual Republican ballot or caucused with the GOP once in office.

The LP's current highest elected official is New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, elected as a Republican.

Leftwing libertarianism is a tiny part of our Libertarian movement. Almost our entire Libertarian movement is Republican-affiliated.

Eric Dondero, Publisher
Libertarian Republican

Roderick T. Long said...

If we're so unimportant, why don't you ignore us?

Isaiah said...

I registered as a Republican right when I turned 18, and when I "converted" I didn't bother to re-register or disaffiliate - probably because I converted during the Ron Paul campaign. I still haven't gotten around to changing my affiliation, partly because I don't think it's worth the effort.

Gary Chartier said...

Well, "not worth the effort" is, I fear, the bigger problem than my friend's misidentification.

What do you think would make bothering to re-register worth the effort?

Isaiah said...

I don't know what would make bothering to register as Libertarian worth the effort. I doubt that getting "our" candidates elected can address the structural problems inherent to government. Election campaigns might be useful for propagating a message (for instance, I was won over partly by Ron Paul), but I don't see why it's necessary or cost-effective. Re-registering as a Libertarian would be worth it if I can be confident that I would help convert more people to libertarianism by supporting LP candidates than by spending that time and effort on other things.