Monday, 27 January 2014

The Current Libertarian Movement Needs To Change

Why the current Libertarian movement needs to change

Definitions: Please note that in this article I use the word 'Libertarian' to mean 'Right-Libertarian'. Also I will not use the term 'Anarcho-Capitalist'. Although I am myself a supporter of the set of principles that being an 'Anarcho- Capitalist' entails, ultimately the controversy that the term brings up ensures I will not be using it in this article.

Over the past few years I have closely watched the current 'Libertarian' manifestation evolve into something resembling a genuine movement. However, in it's current form it shows many symptoms of an idea that is about to wither away. Yet this is not to discredit the excellent academic work done by many writers around the world. But serious issues must be addressed.

The first reason for this slow stagnation of ideas is the movements instability. Without a shadow of a doubt libertarianism is at first glance exclusively a North American affair. Ideas about freedom and personal liberty seem to be a much more significant part of American political thought than in Europe...or so it would seem. It appears that thousands of Americans have taken well to the fiscally conservative side of Libertarianism with gusto. Many prominent members of the current Libertarian movement carry this socially conservative message namely Ron Paul -the high priest of American freedom along with others. Upon further analysis it seems clear to this writer that part of this confusion over what Libertarianism means has deep historical roots. Like all other ideologies it is built from a myriad of thoughts, voices and ideas. Therefore the fact that people who claim to be from the same ideology disagree on certain issues can be forgiven; there is nothing wrong with people holding 'conservative' values. Yet the the willingness to ride a popular wave has left the current Libertarian movement on an unstable footing. It is no coincidence that being in the midst of deep economic depression and new revelations almost every day that reveal the rotten depths to which state corruption and control has reached,has spawned a powerful anti- state, anti- government spending front. However Libertarians should have to confidence to move away from the populist ramblings of a prominent few.

It is these prominent few that are the second reason why the Libertarian movement is failing. It fails to answer tough questions. Even a cursory venture into the endless realms of the internet show that libertarians are failing to answer tough questions, are wrought with scandal and internally divided. As someone who follows many free-market publications with a watchful eye, one could argue that despite being prolific, Libertarian writers prefer to stay on familiar territory. If you want to know anything about finance, economics, government spying or the war on drugs then these outlets are a treasure trove of information. Yet on the other hand if you are interested in race, gender, history, immigration, Labour relations or for that matter anything that is happening outside of North America then forget it. It seems like Libertarians just don't care about addressing issues outside their own comport zone. A recent interview on the Keiser report with Austrian economist Antal Fekete brought to light a significant point, the Movement has become somewhat dogmatic. The detrimental effects of this I will address later. Secondly The movement is becoming riven with scandal. Many of the bigger figures in the free-market thinkers in the 21st century fail to show a 'clean bill of health' in their private and public lives. This in itself is not an issue, and with the internet reformation giving people the ability to research the lives of academics ( private and public) in a matter of seconds. Prominent Libertarians need to address these concerns. The details of which I will not go into here. A large part of this problem is the bias of the popular media in the USA. Libertarians are easy pray for being denounced as racists, unsympathetic towards the poor and or worse. Yet very few libertarians seem ready to address issues concerned with these issues. Instead of shying away from criticism Libertarians should embrace and challenge it. Or forever try and build a movement of inherently usable foundations.

Lastly as I eluded to earlier, I would argue that the current Libertarian movement is decidedly becoming non- intellectual. Weather it's an aversion to dealing with unfamiliar issues, attempts of prominent Libertarians to address those difficult issues or the lack of good, constructive debate within the movement. Unfortunately all signs point to stagation. Free-market ideas have probably never been more popular than at any time in recent memory. But despite this, there is a dearth seriously influential libertarian thinkers in recent years. This is no to decry the amazing work achieved by many such as Walter Block, Lachman and Wendy Mcellroy to name a tiny handful. However I must conclude that overall there is no one uniting ideologue for modern Libertarianism. Part of the reason for this is the synthesis of the areas I have covered in this article. A lack of determination to address hard questions and preferences for popular short news clips or videos as opposed to academic journal articles and books. True easy to digest articles are extremely useful. And I am certainly not arguing that to be successful ideology there should be a closed off, cerebral cabal- shut away in an ivory tower. But a lack of solid academic material is seriously hampering the modern Libertarian movement.

Arguably this point proven by the very nature of the modern Libertarian Movement. I have previously discussed the over emphasis on economic issues within the Right- Libertarian Camp. This is because the Austrian Field of economics in essence, is the strongest card there is in Libertarian deck. Austrian economics has the closest thing to a uniting philosophy for all Libertarians. The major architects of modern Libertarianism are Austrian economists. Friedrich Von Hayek, Lugvig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard And Carl Menger are probably the most influential academics in Right-Libertarianism, and have made the largest contribution to its ideology. The Austrian school of economics has become the main framework of the Libertarian movement because it is academically rigorous, open to criticism and ruthlessly revised and revisited. As a result, there is a strong framework of academically accepted theory. It is work mentioning that other non-economists have made significant contributions to Libertarian ideology, Robert Nozick, Morris and Linda Tannehill, David Friedman, Ayn Rand not to mention countless academics that exist today and stretching back through the enlightenment.

In conclusion, one could argue that the current Libertarian movement has some severe weaknesses that need to be addressed in time. And I am confident that these issues will be addressed. But this will only be achieved with academic rigor and tackling difficult issues.

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