Kitchen Table Radical Libertarianism

This is a thought I was toying with concerning anti-state philosophy and its prospects.  Feel free to say whatever in response:

To put the idea as bluntly as possible, I think at times we talk over folks heads, to the detriment of the long term goal.  This is not to say that deeper philosophical concepts should be abandoned, no.  After all, even the most surface level person lives by some sort of code, as action with no reason is a mark of insanity.  What I mean is that while keeping our eyes firmly on the ball, as I see it there is room for a tactic bent more towards direct meat-and-potatoes issues.

What triggered me to mention this was a thought I had in response to one of the many political ads flittering about on TV.  One of the ads in circulation is about health insurance — specifically, advocating a nationalized form of it — and I ended up saying to myself “wait a minute…the fight over that is government takeover vs the status quo?  WTF, what about anti-state, anti-centralization views?  What do we have to say about this?”.  While there have been mentions of issues like this by the anti-state Left (for example: this Roderick Long piece, albeit from 1993), it seems like there isn’t much in the way of hitting home on them.   In effect, we’re ceding ground on these to statists.

I recall a past argument I had with one of the more open elitists out there.  His view was that I was somehow unrealistic, in that I was arguing for freedom while most people only cared about where their next meal was coming from or the roof over their head — security, in other words.  Obviously this is a false choice, but how many people know that?

Now, before anyone starts warming up their rock-throwing arms, I am not — I repeat, NOT!!! — saying that this should in any way subordinate the big picture, or that ethical principle should be bumped out in favor of utilitarianism.  This is more about positioning to ease skepticism, and introduce localized, non-state solutions for typical concerns.  To more explicitly show where my head is at, take my response to Brad Spangler when he asked about whether to cover the mortgage crisis on his blog (emphasis added):

If only because a larger point about statism can be made through it.

I actually agree with Niccolo on this. People are already skeptical & pissed off, they’re open to new ideas*. The degree of political involvement behind the current messes in housing & finance would shock most people, point it out in a way they can internalize and the status quo discredits itself.

(* – new to them I mean.)

It is inherently easier to undermine statism when its negative effects are more obvious.  Explain the problem, and encourage people to avoid the snap appeal to central authority.  Think of it as a recruiting method.


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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5 Responses to Kitchen Table Radical Libertarianism

  1. Mike says:

    With the context you laid out, I think you’re absolutely right. People are much more likely to be receptive to alternate viewpoints on issues that actually affect them.

    I Brad’s poll had been working properly I would have voted the other way, though, for “Responding to link bait on MA theory”. But that would have been because hearing another dissection of the mortgage crisis from someone who starts from similar principles as mine wouldn’t have been of such great value to me personally.

    Hmmm, I think I’ll go vote again.

  2. vache folle says:

    It would be helpful for libertarians/anarchists to propose solutions that are not predicated on coercion. Folks really do have issues with access to health care, and it doesn’t resonate with them to say “So what? That’s the price of freedom!”

    It isn’t the price of freedom. A large part of the problem is actually caused by state intervention in the health system, and we should point out how ending those problematic programs/rules would help the situation. Also, let’s look at ways that folks can organize in a truly voluntary way to obtain health care and to fund it for the poor.

  3. Jeremy says:

    We definitely talk over people’s heads, but watch out or left libertarians will criticize you as being “anti-intellectual”. I definitely think that one reason (among many others, of course) that many left libertarians disliked Ron Paul’s campaign was the explicit populism of it – that it didn’t try to be the typical braniac libertarian reeducation seminar, but brought people together on issues they could understand that were pro-freedom. We could learn a lot from the Paul campaign, I still think.

    And the other part of this is that a left libertarianism that appeals to politically unsophisticated types helps us hone our leftist credentials. I find many people just want to be engaged instead of talked down to. Attitude is immensely important in coaxing people into frames of mind that allow them to release old, comfortable positions and adopt new, uncomfortable, challenging ones.

    The only difference I have with you is the attitude of recruitment you suggest. I’d suggest instead simply trying to make friends and be friendly. Treat people like they’re real and not just statistics to be factored into a poll, and they’ll open up in a way that allows a real opportunity for learning. You may also learn something yourself!

  4. b psycho says:

    re: recruitment attitude: that line was directed towards the brainiacs, to be honest. I never approach people like anything other than people.

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