Toward a Healthier Libertarian Movement
Libertarianism can have a bright future. But first it needs to break its decades-long alliance with the GOP.
I worry about the future of the libertarian movement.
America faces an acutely precarious political environment, with immediate and severe threats to liberty that go beyond what P. J. O’Rourke once called, “wrong within normal parameters.” It’s not just that we’re staring down rising inflation and a possible recession. It’s that one of the two major parties, always a few marginal voters away from winning elections, has made clear it will subvert those elections, rejects the rule of law, and has abandoned any pretext that institutions should constrain the pursuit of power.
The contemporary Republican Party doesn’t much value individual and economic liberty, either, but is instead committed to enforcing a narrow conception of what it means to be a “real American,” drawn along nationalist, racial, populist, and culturally reactionary lines. It is happy to use state power to punish those who dissent. This amounts to a genuine crisis of liberty, and one from which our democracy and our freedoms might not recover. If given another opportunity in the White House, the GOP’s preferred autocrat and his enablers will have the experience and groundwork necessary to inflict potentially fatal damage to the country’s governing institutions.
We need a strong defense of liberty, one that can appeal to the many Americans, on the right and left, who worry that our basic freedoms are on the line in a way unique in recent memory. We need a strong libertarian movement because liberty is under threat, libertarians have the most principled and developed arguments for liberty, and, because we needn’t get caught up in partisan loyalties, we can speak across party divides.
Yet many in the movement are actively moving in the wrong direction, not just with the alt-right takeover of the Libertarian Party, but also in doubling down on a Republican-fusionist approach to policy advocacy. Partisan entanglements and cultural tribalism have obscured how much of a threat the American right represents, both to the country and to libertarianism itself.