Calling “Liberventionists” By Their Real Name
Anthony Gregory must have been reading my mind. His editorial today on LRC deals with a subject that has been screaming for comment for quite some time: “liberventionists” (not the term he uses, but one that expresses the same idea) who claim to be libertarians but who support the war against Iraq and other conflicts that the U.S. has initiated or in which it involved itself when no act of aggression has been waged against American soil. Anthony has summed it up superbly and doesn’t need my help to recapitulate his points, but I’d like to add three of my own thoughts to his.
1. Those who call themselves libertarians should take the time to (re)familiarize themselves with the core values (there is no one authoritative source, but I think Fishiferous does a good job of summing them up here under his “True Libertarians” posting [dated April 8, 2005]). Notice not just here, but in any authoritative source for libertarian thought that aggressive or pre-emptive war is something we are categorically opposed to for reasons obviously related to our other core values. What could possibly be more destructive of life, private property, free trade and free thought than war?
2. I’m not sure that the term “conservative” necessarily does justice to those who may be straddling the fence about calling themselves libertarians but who clearly express libertarian beliefs (columnists Joseph Sobran and Charley Reese come readily to mind, their occasional misplaced trust in government notwithstanding). For those who espouse beliefs obviously contrary to the tenets of libertarianism while insisting on retaining the name, I recommend “neoconservative” or “pseudolibertarian” as interchangeable appellations. Both imply the same thing - misappropriation of a word with a longstanding and clearly accepted definition and imposition of a new and diametrically opposite definition from the term’s original meaning (George Orwell, where are you when we need you?).
3. Anthony’s acknowledgement of and thanks to those pseudolibertarians who have stopped calling themselves “libertarians” is well taken. Understand, however, that this is not an attempt to censor or marginalize those whose opinions and beliefs different from ours (to do so would obviously negate our own legitimacy as libertarians). I, for one, very much enjoy reading and debating with those who oppose everything I stand for. What I find unnecessary and more than a little dishonest is when people are so unsure or ashamed of what they believe in that they attempt to camouflage it by misrepresenting themselves, believing that this will either gain them acceptance in certain quarters or shield them from ridicule. It is important for everyone to stand up for what they believe in, whether or not it is popular or conventional. Better a neoconservative out of conviction than a libertarian (or anything else) out of compulsion.
Be honest in expressing your beliefs and call them what they really are; after all, what’s the point of bringing about a world of free minds if everyone expresses the same opinion?