Libertarians and lived experience

There is a woman named Tomi Lahren who is 24 years old, doesn’t read books or even much news, who is making a name for herself on The Blaze as a political pundit attacking Black Lives Matter or Colin Kaepernick.

Far be it from my poorly read ass to dump on a young, blonde woman for trying to make a career in punditry. No stones to throw there. I will just note that your lived experience as a 24-year-old white girl probably does not qualify you to speak on Black Lives Matter or Colin Kaepernick.

Which leads us to the term “libertarian,” (I promise).

Today my friend Jonathan Blanks posted this on Facebook:

I’m proud of my work and I’m proud of my organization. I have no plans to leave my job, but this election has convinced me that the term “libertarian” just doesn’t apply to me. In the face of racial demagoguery, by and large, libertarians have failed miserably. It is embarrassing and I’m out.

And our mutual friend Gordon Cummings added: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Meanwhile, my friend Daniel Pryor is defending the term libertarian from an attack by his friend Sam Bowman, who prefers the term “neoliberal.”

Sam believes the following are truer of neoliberals than libertarians:

  • We are liberal consequentialists
  • We care about the poor
  • We care about the welfare of everyone in the world, not just those in the UK (they’re both limey fucks)
  • We base our beliefs on empirics, not principles
  • We try not to be dogmatic
  • We think the world is getting better
  • But we’re comfortable with redistribution, in principle

To which Daniel answers, “So are many libertarians,” then explains why libertarianism isn’t necessarily rights-based, class-blind, atomistic, dogmatic, etc.

Glaringly, Daniel never (IMO) sufficiently acknowledges why a consequentialist might want to distance himself from a label clearly associated more closely with a right-based underpinning.

No one is addressing the most obvious question. Whether to retain the label rests not on whether many libertarians care about the poor (or whatever matters to you), but on whether enough of them do.

For Jonathan Blanks, and for myself, the answer is a resounding “Fuck to the no.”

Daniel Pryor and Sam Bowmen are white males. Jonathan Blanks and Gordon Cummings are black.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the people I know who have adopted, and then rejected, the libertarian label are overwhelmingly women and people of color. And the people I see defending it are overwhelmingly white men. The question I asked at the beginning of my odyssey into underinformed punditry was, “Why aren’t there more libertarian women?” Now the question I’m asking is, “Why do only the white men stay?”

The answer to why I rejected the libertarian label, and why Jonathan is rejecting it now, is lived experience. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. I can’t unsee libertarians supporting and apologizing for racism, sexism, homophobia, and other bigotry as totally compatible with libertarianism while trying to oust me from the movement for being a feminist. I can’t unsee libertarian figureheads supporting candidates who want to use government to shut down newspapers that criticize them but tell me I’m not a libertarian because I acknowledge that coercion isn’t just physical.

I can’t unexperience the gendered, racial harassment I’ve received at the hands of libertarians.

I’ve never advocated for a net increase in government. I have been a principled anarchist. And yet so many libertarians have made it clear that I’m not welcome because I dare acknowledge structural racism.

The thing is, if you’re a white dude writing about free-market economics for a fairly well-educated audience, of course you’re going to look around at libertarians and conclude they’re an okay bunch. But be a woman and talk about misogyny to an audience of poorly educated libertarian men. You will get a different picture of libertarians. It will likely be in the form of a Nazi meme if your last name happens to sound Jewish.

The fact that the alt-right is formed from so many former libertarians tells you what you need to know about libertarianism. The fact that Lew Rockwell an audience several times the size of the Cato Institute tells you what you need to know about libertarianism.

Do many libertarians hate racism and sexism? Sure. Do enough of them?

Fuck to the no.


  1. I can understand why you say this. There are certainly far too many libertarians of this kind, But I also know many who are not like this. Over the 52 years I have been a libertarian activist, I’ve met all kinds and criticized the same ones you do. But I also know that there are many good-hearted, compassionate people who are not the kind of jerks you and I abhor. Unfortunately those kind make more noise than the ones we like, for many reasons. But I’m not willing to give up on libertarianism just yet. I’m going to do my best to represent the compassionate ones and to criticize those who misrepresent our values.

  2. Love it and couldn’t agree more. Cosseted jock shop without a real world, empiricist clue. Reminds me of the ivory towers of academia. So now what do we call our disaffected small government civil rights liberty loving selves?

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