Libertarian:  Left or Right?

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that, despite our protestations to the contrary, even we libertarians get caught up in the whole left/right model of politics.  Some of that is cultural.  If you live in areas where conservative values dominate, your instinct is to fit in, framing your libertarianism as perhaps a purer and more consistent kind of conservatism but entirely in keeping with those ideas.  And, if you find yourself surrounded by liberals, it is tempting to imagine your own “liberal” ideas as ones you share with your friends and neighbors, a common ground from which you might build concensus.  But, while no one is more supportive of “big tent libertarianism” than I am, neither of these examples is it and, in fact, it is our desire to be something we are not that ends up tearing us apart.

It is said that politics makes for strange bedfellows and that is probably true.  But it is the convoluted logic by which we justify our proverbial “walk of shame” that is more damaging than our occasionally dalliances with the political mainstream.  It is far less objectionable for a libertarian to have voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton than for that same person to imagine that that choice was ideal.  I have often described American politics as analogous to sports, where who we choose to support may have once been based on some sort of logic but it now merely instinctive.  Watching the competing news channels is much like listening to Red Sox fans arguing with Yankee fans, though It Is perhaps not quite so thoughtful.

And therein lies the problem.  It is just too easy to become one of them, abandoning the principles that make us unique in an attempt to become relevant and to be taken more seriously.  And so it is that I too often see good people with great ideas at one another’s throats over what amount to differences in style more than substance.  While there are genuine differences between libertarians on a number of issues, we are much more like one another than liberals or conservatives. It is ironic that people who most need to stick together and work together end up sometimes disliking each other more than they do their ideological opponents.

If we libertarians (and Libertarians) want to be a debating society, than we are well on our way.  We are brilliant when it comes to drawing out the distinctions between our ideas.  But debating societies don’t generally get elected to office. And debating societies don’t generally gain political power.  If we are serious about achieving those two goals we must focus on the issues that unite us rather than those which divide us.  Whatever their many faults, we can learn from both the Left and the Right, from both Republicans and Democrats.  They do a much better job pulling together to achieve their goals.

Whether Left or Right, everyone is welcome here at the Ecumenical Libertarian and we appreciate your continued support. I do hope that each of you has a safe and spectacular Labor Day weekend.  Well see you back here next time with more news and commentary, designed to amuse, bemuse and inform.  


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