February 9, 2016

Opposing “the system” is not enough

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

In my estimation, perhaps a little too pessimistic for most, the libertarian world is breaking apart at the seams. It was united during its rise to national (and international) discussion with the Presidential “educational” campaigns of Ron Paul but, perhaps in part to the meager and compromising approach to “liberty politics” of Rand Paul, the libertarian world is almost in shambles. It searches for a unifying identity, but no one can agree on what that is.

In this light, I have noticed a number of libertarians who express a certain degree of excitement about Bernie Sanders because he opposes “the system.” He is critical of the Fed, of the cronyism, of the well-funded politicians, of wars… allegedly. But libertarians should have absolutely no business being in any way attracted to the socialist likes of Bernie Sanders. Those that like him are not libertarian. Sanders is critical of the Fed only in the sense that he thinks it should be more actively providing cheap money for the poor (as if they needed more debt and the system needed increased misallocation of scarce resources); he is critical of cronyism only in the sense that he disagrees with certain programs that have government backing because he wants said backing to fund other schemes; he is not even against wars in a principled and consistent manner, having supported on multiple occasions the American militarism.

But there’s more here of which we should be reminded; namely, being “against” the current Federal Government arrangement is only half the picture. And this is why self-described libertarians who have not actually studied the libertarian literature so easily fall into the trap of feeling excited about revolutionary trends amongst the youth. What they do not realize is that oftentimes, at the collapse of a great empire, the void is filled evils of a different breed. Socialism has for the last several centuries been ready to take the place of a falling powerful state. We ought to be aware of the fact that libertarians don’t hold a position of “anything but this.” Rather, we hold to a position of “increased property rights, decentralized political power, and less influence of governments.” We don’t want to urge “government by the people,” because that is far too easy (and for all practical purposes, a guarantee) for the socialists to make their case.

We want to urge the message: get the government out of our lives.

Libertarianism offers a positive paradigm for a social order based on individual rights grounded in private property. Being “against the system” is only present inasmuch as the system deviates from individual rights grounded in private property. There is a certain level of anti-bourgeois themed sentiment filling the ranks of libertarians in our time and I am extremely concerned about it. It is destroying the movement, blistering it apart and making the youth hate “the wealth,” the “1%,” and so forth. But this has nothing to do with libertarianism. Sure, we don’t like when the wealthy attain their status as a result of the State’s supporting their lives, but our complaint there is the state, not the standard of living.

It is not enough to oppose the system. Libertarianism offers a holistic political theory. And it seems to me that many who describe themselves as such can’t even articulate the actual theory.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com