This article originally appeared on the blog of Heretic, the magazine of We Are Libertarians.
I will try to say this carefully: If you insist on being a left or right libertarian, you are sowing seeds of discord and are a liability to the movement. It’s alright if you’re still left or right for now, but it will have to change. Allow me to explain.
We’re almost all familiar with the political compass, but a refresher never hurts. On the far left, there’s economic slavery. On the far right, there’s social slavery. At the very top, there’s those who want both both kinds of slavery. At the very bottom, there’s those who want neither kind of slavery.
All libertarians are going to be close to the bottom. And I don’t want to demean those who are close to the bottom. This is a good start! But it is not the finish line. Saying that a little bit slavery, regulation, or oppression is tolerable or necessary is a problem that must be ironed out.
Most libertarians have good intention for being left or right. Right libertarians believe that limited power can be a tool to keep property respected and use it to stop any specific group for getting an unequal amount of rights. Left libertarians believe that limited power can be used to stop discrimination and keep corporations in check.
But these are fundamentally untrue. The spirit of all of these things is a fair goal to achieve. But politicians don’t use authority, even a little authority, to abuse the people you think. Property regulations, inequality, discrimination, and crony corporations are not decreased by government; they are increased by it. Only through immense cultural pressure will government ever pretend to do the right thing.
This is why we must reject all slavery. No amount of it is acceptable. It’s fair to be more passionate about one or the other. But we must understand the level of desperation by those who are passionate about economic and social freedoms as well. I can spend 100% of my time talking about financial or personal freedom; having a specialty and a focus is great! I only ask for acceptance that the other half of this is what makes our equation make sense.
So why is this so important? Why can’t we just have libertarians that don’t care so much about economic or social slavery, use them when they’re right, and ignore them when they’re wrong? The short answer is unity. And we won’t get either economic or social freedom without it.
I continue to believe that most conservatives and liberals are libertarians. And we will show them that message by unifying. Yes, there are some conservatives who want limitless economic freedom but are only OK with individual freedom so long as you keep it in your home. But I don’t think that’s the majority. Yes, there are some liberals who want limitless social freedom but want to regulate all economic interactions through a tyrannical government regime. But I don’t think that’s the majority.
I find that when I criticize conservatives or liberals for their policies, they are eager to separate themselves from these positions of control. This is a good thing. Are there conservatives and liberals that embrace controlling aspects over people’s lives, either economic or social? Yes. Horrifyingly, these people tend to find their way into leadership. I know of almost no conservative that would ban couples from adopting children. I know of almost no liberal that would ban all air travel for non-politicians.
Yet, these are actual policies put forward by politicians who claim to lead conservatives and liberals. And, by extension, their followers find themselves defending these ideas they would never have had the audacity to put forward themselves.
The two extremes, left and right, are equally bad. Choosing between economic and social slavery is a false choice and most people know it. But we feel we have to choose. And, by the nature of government, lives literally depend on the outcome of these elections.
This is why unity is of paramount importance. They are looking for somebody that clearly has their interests in mind. They will not support a movement that tolerates a little bit of slavery for any aspect of their lives. The idea of losing that freedom is what has led them to become Republicans and Democrats to begin with. So we cannot appear to be 90% in favor of any area of liberty.
We need to believe in 100% liberty for both economics and socialization. And if we settle on any destination other than this, then we settle on failure through division and ignorance.