Something is different in politics recently. No, not Trump. I mean the global nature of previously domestic politics. In the past, there was a superficial awareness of geopolitics and foreign leaders. But now we have the same emotional, visceral response to other countries’ politicians, that used to be reserved for one’s own. Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Merkel, Wilders, Orban, Erdogan — have supporters and detractors across the world. There even seem to be the rough outlines of political alignment across boundaries, such as Nigel Farage stumping for Trump.
Social media has certainly contributed to this globalization of discourse. But there is a narrative structure to recent events. A disaffected, right-wing, populist, global “revolution” against the “establishment” is a unifying thread. Both sides of the political spectrum are engaging in cross-border alignments. Is there a deliberate unite-and-rule tactic happening, to drive us into yet another false, left-right paradigm? This time, it is pushing our consciousness to operate on the global level, rather than the national.
We are to believe that there is suddenly a groundswell of opposition to global governance, simultaneously, worldwide. This opposition is momentarily winning, but it is painted in the darkest terms, as something that must be defeated. Perhaps it is just one phase of the dialectic, to get us psychologically prepared for global governance.
Just as with national politics, there is a danger in engaging this new global politics. It is putting our faith, hope, time and energy into these pantheonic figures, completely removed from our lives, which might as well be cartoon characters on a screen. We ignore the local, the immediate, the personal. We should not buy into these false alignments and alliances, as if they are our saviors — a grand revolution around the world.
The real revolution is at home.
The Trump phenomenon has splintered the libertarian movement into three distinct groups. The massive political realignment taking place has exposed fractures that have existed for a long time. How will these factions reconcile and will they constitute a unified movement in the future?
Left-libertarians – Typically DC beltway libertarians and wannabe respectable types. The biggest of the three groups, they are best represented by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. They value left social issues and are animated by anti-racism, gay marriage, and baking of cakes. They also think Trump is racist and hates women. Any good that may come from Trump’s challenge of the establishment is overshadowed by his being Pure Evil.
Paleo-conservatives – People like Lew Rockwell and Jeff Deist. They value nationalism and traditional right views on culture, immigrants, and political correctness. There is a silver lining to every one of Trump’s totalitarian or economically destructive proposals.
Voluntarists – The smallest faction, with people like Robert Wenzel and James Corbett. They see Trump as not much different from Hillary or any of the other candidates, and a potential disaster for the country and the libertarian brand. They tend to point out both the good aspects and terrible aspects of Trump’s proposals.
I was floored by the sheer inanity of Walter Block going back on his word to disband “Libertarians for Trump” after the convention. This nonsensical shilling for a would-be tyrant by a smart, prominent libertarian, based on nothing more than a willful naivete around a politician’s lies, is very discouraging.
Remember candidate George W. Bush’s claim to be against nation-building? Boy, did that work out well. Now we are supposed to believe Trump is a non-interventionist, even though his psychology and history clearly do not point to that conclusion. It’s like the last 16 years never happened and no lessons were learned about believing presidential candidates’ words.
Walter Block isn’t the only libertarian with googly-eyes for Trump; Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, and others as well. Maybe they are more paleocons than libertarians after all? Who can tell. But if these libertarian leaders can be so taken in by the emotional con game, what hope is there for the masses? Can education and spreading ideas really result in a voluntary society? Do we not have the right ideas yet and that’s why we’re falling into error? What are we missing?
Here are a few suggestions of what I think we need, that we’re missing.
#1, devise ways to measure how much progress we’re making toward the goal of a voluntary society. We need to be able to tell which tactics work and which don’t, which are more effective and less effective. We clearly don’t have a good handle on this, judging by the constant debates on the merits of voting.
#2, create an institutional alternative to the Libertarian Party, focused on non-political means of achieving a voluntary society. There are plenty of options already on the table; they should be catalogued, nurtured, promoted, and funded at an institutional level. Right now, most people assume that electoral politics is the only way to effect change. A non-political action organization would help break this paradigm.
#3, develop self-reinforcing systems of advancing liberty. The problem with relying on education to advance liberty is that it’s a constant struggle, and only a few will have the motivation, time, patience, curiosity, resources, etc. to understand the issues and go against their emotional instincts. Even with this education, as we’ve seen with “Libertarians for Trump”, it’s easy to go off the rails.
Just as the market functions regardless of the personal opinions of its participants, we need to devise systems that inherently advance liberty by their very nature. Ideally, such systems would align people’s financial interests with advancing liberty. It’s hard to stay in the fight if you have to scrape by to survive. A focus on systems of coordination, not just the ideas of liberty per se, is needed to make the liberty movement an effective social force.