Criticisms #4: Divided We Fall


by Luke Henderson

Continuing my articles meant to address the common criticisms of libertarianism, this week I planned on doing something a little different and addressing a criticism of libertarians from other libertarians.

A recent article on Being Libertarian claimed that the infighting between liberty-minded people needs to cease so that we can appear to the rest of the United States as a group who all believe in a cohesive message. Libertarian “purity” tests and disagreements on certain issues should not detract from the basic principle of “liberty first” states the author.

Sometimes it does seem that the party is very divided and that we fall towards the purity test argument to justify our dissent towards a candidate. Many libertarians did not Gary Johnson for his consideration of ideas like a carbon tax and universal basic income while others saw it as him trying to remain open minded to attract more people to the philosophy.

But, that is what is great about the philosophy is the empowerment of the individual through liberty and, I believe, the reason that the party appears divided. With this empowerment, comes a different version of libertarianism for each person who decides to follow the philosophy and there’s no problem with that. Picking and choosing which aspects of libertarianism make sense to an individual is the perfect example of accepting that each person is their own unique person and should be treated as such.

Some libertarians, like Austin Peterson, reject the Non-Aggression Principle. Some are pro-choice and some are pro-life. Some believe in open borders and some believe in closed borders. There are anarchists, minarchists, constitutionalists, liberty-leaning conservatives, liberty-leaning leftists, tea partiers, and classical liberals. This mass of different ideas within the party is not a burden; it’s a beautiful strength.

Libertarianism empowers individuals so much that it can host so many differently-minded people. There was a time when I followed the Facebook group Americans Against the Libertarian Party and I claimed that the libertarian party was diverse and their counter was that we were not diverse because most of the membership are white males (a criticism to be discussed in later articles). They then proceeded to quote this article from Salon towards me and failed to see the racism in claiming diversity means a mix of skin of colors.

This is where the strength of liberty and individualism lies. Libertarians focus on the unique ideas, personalities and needs of each person and try to find ways to create equal opportunity so they that these people can use their strengths for their pursuit of happiness.

What libertarians need to show is that the ideology is a means to achieve each individual’s happiness, not an ends to making every citizen have a fruitful life. Through liberty, one could make their own choices for how to create a good life (if they are not aggressing against someone’s body or property).

While the purity tests do need to be addressed (and I’ve been guilty of this as well), it is my belief that we do not necessarily need to move towards party loyalty like that of the major parties. The solution to pushing the ideals of liberty and non-aggression is not to start to become a cult of personality but to continue to value individualism and realize that because of that value, there is going to be disagreements between libertarians.

George Orwell once said “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians”, something I think all libertarians can agree on.


Click the links below to read my other articles on Libertarian Criticisms

Criticisms #3: The Free For All Argument

Criticisms #2: Libertarianism is a Return to Feudalism

Criticisms #1: How to Combat “Libertarians Don’t Care About the Poor”


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