Am I a libertarian? Is Glenn Beck? Nick Gillespie? Was Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein? Are you?
I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe – “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient.
–Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849
Watching the new FBN show Freedom Watch with the Judge this weekend, I watched Judge Andrew Napolitano ask Reason TV‘s Nick Gillespie if the gulf oil spill was “arguably the fault of the federal government” because BP had originally wanted to drill in 500 feet of water off the Louisiana coastline — a depth for which they had ample prior experience — but the United States Government overrode the State of Louisiana’s permission to BP, forcing the oil company to drill in far deeper waters where risks of a disaster were far higher.
Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the editor-in-chief of Reason magazine for eight years, answered:
I think it’s the fault of BP first and foremost because they clearly didn’t follow the best practices for capping wells and having back-up systems. But there’s no question this is a federal issue. It’s taking place in federal waters on a federal seabed. There is a role for the government to play here both in taking blame and figuring out what to do.
Making an argument for government presence, Nick Gillespie is clearly not any sort of an anarchist — individualist, voluntaryist, anarcho-capitalist, mutualist, agorist, or otherwise.
Then again, neither was Ludwig von Mises — whose writings on economics are the gold standard for arguments against state intervention into markets — nor Ayn Rand — whose Atlas Shrugged has without question inspired more people to join libertarian groups than any other novel in history — nor was Robert A. Heinlein — whose science-fiction writings first converted me to libertarianism — and neither is Glenn Beck, whose new novel, The Overton Window, I recently recommended to the Libertarian Futurist Society as a candidate for its Prometheus Award as the year’s best libertarian novel.
So should advocates of what Samuel Edward Konkin III tagged as minarchy — a belief in some minimal rather than zero government — be welcomed into circles, discussions, and organizations of people calling themselves libertarian?
Glenn Beck — whose voice daily reaches three million radio listeners and a couple million more on his Fox News Channel show — has been made to feel unwelcome.
Speaking to Judge Napolitano earlier in that same Freedom Watch, Judge Napolitano had the following exchange with Glenn Beck:
Judge Napolitano: “Okay, Glenn Beck. We know from your TV and radio appearances and your new novel and the conversations we’ve had that you don’t like big government.
Glenn Beck: Right.
Judge Napolitano: Are you a libertarian?
Glenn Beck: Yeah, I think so. I say that with respect to libertarians ’cause I don’t think they want me in their camp.
Glenn Beck isn’t alone in being made unwelcome in the libertarian camp.
A 2008 article on Nolanchart.com titled “Essential Science Fiction and Fantasy for Libertarians” bylined “Dan Clore, libertarian,” flippantly writes off the novel that has produced more libertarian converts than any other, saying, “And finally, the list of possibilities intentionally excludes Ayn Rand’s egregious enormity Atlas Shrugged.”
Jeff Riggenbach, whose Wikipedia stub describes him as “an American libertarian journalist, author, editor, broadcaster, and educator” — and who in 1983 praised my novel The Rainbow Cadenza in the San Jose Mercury News as “that rare thing, a genuinely intellectual thriller” — writes in his June 2, 2010 Mises Daily article “Was Robert A. Heinlein a Libertarian?“:
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is unquestionably a libertarian novel. It is unquestionably one of the three or four most influential libertarian novels of the last century. But whether its author, Robert A. Heinlein, can plausibly be described as a libertarian in his personal political views remains a troubled question.
Now let’s get to me. Before I’d ever met anyone else who called himself a libertarian I’d started a campus libertarian group on my college campus. I was regularly writing for libertarian newsletters and magazines within a year after that. I organized meetings of a libertarian supper club with Murray Rothbard as its first speaker in 1974, and organized the first conferences on counter-economics — with Samuel Edward Konkin III and Robert LeFevre as featured speakers — in 1974 and 1975. I reviewed Murray Rothbard’s book, For A New Liberty, in Murray Rothbard’s own journal, The Libertarian Forum. I’ve written two novels that have received gold coins as awards from the Libertarian Futurist Society and a third novel that was a finalist. I’m also known for having written one of the most popular books defending the right to keep and bear arms — a position that when I took to the Op-Ed page of the Los Angeles Times to present quite possibly lost me TV writing work that might have kept my financial-hardship-strained marriage from busting up. I’ve gotten other awards and accolades from libertarian organizations, libertarian celebrities, and libertarian publications.
Yet when on June 16th I praised Glenn Beck’s novel for its libertarian content, a Facebook friend named Chris Tolliver wrote on my Facebook wall, “I have lost all respect for you, J Neil. Agorist, you are not. Statist, you are. Glenn Beck and libertarian do not go together. He’s not a libertarian.”
Then this past Friday when Brad Spangler, director of the anarchist Center for a Stateless Society, thanked his Facebook friends for voting him a high ranking in a website poll asking for guest suggestions for Freedom Watch with the Judge, I discovered that my name wasn’t even on the list. Upon being told of this Brad Spangler — a true gentleman — immediately added my name to the list and posted a Facebook message asking his supporters to vote for me as well, but I’d already taken the point that if you want to be popular among libertarians — when it comes time to decide who they want speaking for them — you’d better stick to their agenda as closely as any corporate flack or White House press secretary.
A lifetime of devotion to liberty isn’t even close to being enough for many libertarians to think of you as being a member of their little clique.
And I do mean little.
If being a lifetime worker for liberty isn’t enough for some people, evolving towards liberty from a mainstream state-approving belief system is likely to have you looked at the way a life-saving transplanted organ is regarded by blindly hostile white corpuscles — with results just as fatal to the body.
It just doesn’t take much for libertarians to treat you like a Jew trying to join the Episcopalian-run country club.
It might be enough that you express a belief in God, while most radical libertarians are hostile to religion.
Being a believer in limited rather than zero government is another reason for the blackball to be dropped into the bowl.
Think the United States is historically an overall force for good in the world, or have good things to say about the Founding Fathers? Get ready for many libertarians to call you a Neocon, no matter how many wars you’ve demonstrated against.
And God forbid that you have anything good to say about Israel, Mormons, Jesus Christ, or Country Music.
When the hell did the libertarian movement become more exclusive than the Bohemian Grove?
Devotees of liberty are facing the strongest push towards totalitarian global statism I’ve seen in my lifetime. The libertarian movement is too small, too fragile, too marginalized already for anyone as potentially decisive to the cause of liberty as Glenn Beck, Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein — and yes, me, especially now when I’m working my ass off to produce a movie based on my most popular libertarian-themed novel, Alongside Night — to be treated with adolescent dismissal.
Wise up. Robust libertarian movements have historically been rerouted back onto the Road to Serfdom by far less.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
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