Libertarians frequently argue that the left and right are merely two sides of a statist coin, both willing to use coercive means to accomplish their ends: economic and social control. Richard Spencer’s recent tweet proclaiming Marx to be “kinda right” about capitalism’s descent into class warfare serves as further proof that the left and right, despite their protestations to the contrary, are not especially different. For libertarians the most meaningful ideological distinction between individuals is not what we want the state to do, but whether we want the state to do anything at all. While left and right grapple for power over their fellow human beings, libertarians – in theory – decline to participate in that game. Why, then, do some self-styled libertarians and anarchists, including anarcho-capitalists, defend aggressive shows of state force to oppress political opponents?
The error likely stems from three problematic assumptions:
- Freedom doesn’t work. People are too greedy and selfish to help each other, a common left-anarchist apology for welfare programs. Nonwhite people don’t value liberty like white people do, often asserted by many of my fellow libertarians and ancaps to justify immigration controls. Essentially, these are all variations on “most people aren’t good enough for freedom.” Human beings are fallen, they cannot be trusted, and only through state-imposed order from our betters can we achieve a just world. Of course, one day they will rein in that state, we are told, but until that point, it would simply be unconscionably wrong not to use everything in the arsenal, literally and figuratively.
- Collectivist morality. Group A over there thinks and does things I don’t like. Group B, of which I am a part, is clearly superior. Let’s thrash Group A before they thrash Group B! Whether it’s the bourgeoise “boss class” against the workers or the foreign hordes against the upstanding citizen, they rationalize preemptively infringing on individual rights based on a tenuous membership in a “bad group.” In addition, they declare they have the authority to do so because of membership in a “good group.” All semblance of individual guilt and individual punishment pushed aside, the only remaining consideration is we should hurt them before “they” will hurt us.
- Don’t trust the state, except when you need it. This is the very flawed reasoning that the state is full of bad actors, either because they are dangerous, misguided or incompetent, but ultimately it is “pragmatic” and “sensible” to strategically seize the government and trust that its agents would carry out their interests. And somehow, at the end, the state would quietly retreat at their command. Other than the glaring internal contradiction, it is curious that a libertarian anarchist would think that a government’s enforcers would tolerate an ideology that openly advocates for the state’s demise.
Although this sentiment grows increasingly unpopular, the best method for achieving liberty is actually respecting liberty consistently. Instead of distrusting freedom, extending freedom only to the tribe or legitimizing the state by empowering it, reject the state in all its forms. Do not give credence to the mentality that rights exist at the whim of those who wield power. That way lies misery.