Trump Libertarians: Rise of the Anarcho-Statists

Trump Libertarians: Rise of the Anarcho-Statists

I would like to preface this by saying that I have nothing personally against the people that I’m about to discuss in this article. All of them have contributed to spreading the message of freedom to various degrees, and for that I am grateful. One of them, Stefan Molyneux, was a strong influence on me personally when I was first exploring the concepts of self-ownership and voluntary interaction. Without him, my views might not be where they are today.

However, I would be remiss if I were to ignore the problems with the worrying trend that they’ve been a part of. Along with the rise of Donald Trump has come a strain of the liberty movement that looks more like a cousin of the alt-right than a philosophy based on freedom. Between the call for greater border enforcement and even a wall (more on that later), to the cries for “God Emperor Trump” to come down with an iron fist on those on those deemed to be degenerates, those involved often sound more fascistic than libertarian.

Whether it is a deliberate move to attract a bigger audience, a shift in philosophy, or the product of the conservative-minded side of the movement, these “anarcho-statists” have become a vocal and very real part of the libertarian and anarcho-capitalist community. Central to their thinking is that those on the left are the true enemies of freedom, while those on the right are the lesser evil (if not an ally in the fight against liberalism.) They are not necessarily ardent supporters of Donald Trump (although some are), but they often incorporate parts of his message.

Justin Moldow, self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist and founder of the libertarian website Liberty Hangout, is a prime example of this. As I stated in the first sentence of this article, the specific individuals discussed herein (Moldow included), have been an overall plus for the causes of liberty and freedom. But this in no way makes him or any of the others immune to criticism.

In recent months, Moldow has written multiple articles about his issues with the left. Before I go any further, I must say that some of the assertions he makes are entirely true. There is a sizeable contingent of leftists who look to shut down speech they disagree with, as he states in “It’s Time to Admit That Leftists Can’t Be Reasoned With.” Yes, leftists do use the violence of the state to impose their views on others. And yes, many of them (at least those in the mainstream) do erroneously believe that the state is ultimately a force for good. We have no disagreement on these points; I would never claim that liberalism is in anyway synonymous with libertarianism.

The problem with Moldow’s assertions about leftists is not necessarily a factual error, although I do believe he often over-generalizes and overstates the contempt that those on the left have for the liberty movement. The problem is instead an error of omission; those on the right can be just as bad, if not worse, than leftists in these areas. In “Libertarians Who Side With Leftists are Tools for Their Marxist Agenda,” he says that “it’s not the alt-right… encouraging the ongoing violence against peaceful people.” Violence against peaceful people is not limited to the left, whether that be on an individual basis or a state level.

To anyone who believes otherwise, I would encourage you to try to peacefully burn an American flag in protest of the United States government in front of a group of conservatives (on second thought, don’t try that unless you’re able to defend yourself.) Needless to say, they would not respond kindly. There have been numerous occasions in which protesters attempting to peacefully burn flags (a constitutionally protected act) have been threatened with violence or even attacked. I have experienced the vitriol of the right first-hand in response to my article “No Thank You For Your Service: The Fallacy of Troop Worship,” and trust me, they were not comments about how they disagreed with me but still respected my right to free speech.

In the same way that the left advocates using the violence of the state for wealth distribution and forced association, the right uses it for their own means. Although there are exceptions (as there are on the left), those on the right-wing are usually more than happy to use violence against peaceful people if it will result in a larger military, the imprisonment of drug users and others who commit victimless crimes, and fewer foreigners coming into the country. Arguing over whether it’s worse to steal people’s money from them or to throw them in a cage for smoking a plant is like arguing whether it’s worse to get punched in the face or kicked in the groin. You might have a preference, but both are terrible outcomes.

This brings me to my next point and a defining characteristic of those discussed in this article: the demand for the state to crack down on illegal immigration. Those who advocate for this often say that being in favor of open borders is an un-libertarian position, as Moldow does in “Open Borders Are Not Libertarian. They’re Communist.” In it, one of the arguments he makes in favor of closed borders is that immigrants might vote to increase taxes and may support Democratic politicians. Effectively, he is arguing that because of a possible bad outcome, an organization that he deems to be illegitimate should use violence against those who peacefully cross an arbitrary line in order to defend territory that the organization does not rightfully own (the irony of this seems to be lost on him).

This utilitarian defense of initiatory violence is completely at-odds with the non-aggression principle and the philosophy of anarcho-capitalism and would result in an authoritarian state if taken to its logical ends. If it is acceptable to use violence against someone based on a hypothetical, the idea of self-ownership is completely thrown out the window. The fact that someone comes from a bad neighborhood is not enough reason to attack them in defense of them possibly attacking you, just as the fact that someone comes from a poor country is not enough to attack them in defense of them possibly stealing your money. Ironically, the same critique of using initiatory violence to stop initiatory violence that Moldow would likely (and rightfully) use to argue against a state is present in his thinking on immigration.

Rather than being a product of a belief in self-ownership and freedom, Moldow’s words look more like those of someone attempting to sell a conservative position to a libertarian audience. His follow-up article “Open Borders Advocates are Hypocritical Nationalists That Also Put America First” was even more perplexing. In it, he claimed that open-borders libertarians who were criticizing Trump’s immigration ban were actually nationalists, due to the fact that they were not speaking out against Iran’s ban against immigration from the United States.

Even ignoring the fact that Iran’s ban was a direct response to Trump’s, you would be hard-pressed to find a libertarian who believes in open-borders who would also be in favor of the Iranian government restricting immigration. The fact that Trump’s ban is focused on more often is a matter of priority, not an indication of support for the Iranian regime. There are far more people who are looking to immigrate to the United States from the seven countries affected than people looking to immigrate to Iran from the US. Using the logic of Moldow’s argument, someone who criticizes the murders committed by a serial killer does not care about or even approves of a murder committed by a one-time killer. Focusing on the greater evil before attempting to draw attention to a lesser one does not make someone a nationalist; it makes them a sane person following a logical strategy.

Christopher Cantwell is another example of this style of anarcho-capitalist that I find so troubling. When he’s not preoccupied with calling people “cucks,” Cantwell is outwardly racist and is a fervent supporter of Donald Trump. He argues for a strong authoritarian leader to rid the world of leftists, all while claiming to be an anarchist. I don’t plan on saying much more about him within this article, but I wanted to point out that there is a real problem with racism in this “Trumpian” brand of libertarianism. I’m not referring to the accusations of racism made by “social justice warriors,” in which innocent actions are deemed to be bigoted by overzealous college students. The type of racism that concerns me is one in which statements about the superiority of a specific race (in this case, whites) are thrown around.

Although Cantwell and his ilk would dismiss my critique as “virtue signaling,” racism is simply another ugly form of collectivism. A person with black or brown skin does not deserve to be judged by the actions of others with the same skin color, just as all whites do not deserve to be lumped in with the authoritarian megalomaniac some call our President. Cantwell and others who focus on race are only turning off potential converts to libertarianism and contradicting the individualism that we preach.

Although I’ve thus far focused on Moldow and Cantwell, there might be no greater example of this “anarcho-statist” mindset than prominent anarcho-capitalist Stefan Molyneux. He has been around for many years and has been a vital part of the liberty movement. Until recently, he argued against closed-border advocates and said that we had much worse things to worry about than immigrants. Around the time that Trump came onto the scene during the 2016 Presidential Election, he did a complete 180 on immigration and became maybe the most vocal Trump-supporting libertarian. His foray into presidential politics was especially ironic due to the fact that he had considered the presidential runs of Ron Paul (who had much greater libertarian credentials than Trump) a waste of time.

Molyneux uses many of the same arguments as Moldow when discussing his newfound desire for border enforcement. Whether they’re based on the idea that illegal immigrants may leach off taxpayers (even though the fact that these immigrants are fearful of being punished by the state is what forces them to work under the table), typical fear-mongering about Islamic Terrorism (you’re significantly more likely to be killed by a cop than a terrorist), or preserving what he vaguely refers to as Western culture (which has brought us the same state we decry as evil), his platform basically boils down to the idea that we must sacrifice our ideals to save them. Eerily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s assertion that he “abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market,” this Orwellian double-think will never result in the fulfillment of libertarian ideals.

Just as there has been up to now, there will always be another crisis that we’re told requires the suspension of our rights or the rights of others. Although the powers that be typically give us assurances that these restrictions will be temporary, they hardly ever are; one needs to look no further than the aftermath of 9/11 and the advent of the mass surveillance state to see this in action. If the state takes away our rights, even temporarily, it should be obvious to us all that the state (and those who support it) never considered them rights in the first place. In the same vein, if we must sacrifice our principles in order to achieve our goals, they were never really our principles.

We must think long and hard about what we believe and why. Are we the philosophy of fear-mongering, collectivism, and authoritarianism when it suits us? Or are we the ones who will stand up to the state and others who wish to take away the rights of those who cannot stand up for themselves?

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Fascistbook: The Spiral Of Silence Theory In Action

Fascistbook: The Spiral Of Silence Theory In Action

As a communications major in college, just like with the many art, history, and philosophy majors (I think you get where I’m going with this), I was often told my degree was worthless and that nothing I learned really mattered. Even though I was able to find employment within my major after graduating, I believed them when they said that the majority of what I learned would fall by the wayside and would ultimately be a waste of my time. However, every passing day I realize more and more that what I learned was more valuable than I could have imagined.

One course I was required to take was Communication Theory. A total throwaway class, right? I thought so too, even though I went to every class, paid attention to every lecture (and took notes too!), and wound up with an A. Since then, I’ve witnessed many of these theories actually happen in real life, not just some textbook example. There is one theory that I’ve seen in action literally every day on Facebook since Donald Trump began his rise through the GOP primaries to President of the United States, and it’s something that if unchanged can have dangerous consequences. I’m talking about the Spiral of Silence theory.

The SoS theory is more of an assessment of a societal norm, and even those who are unfamiliar with the theory know it (and probably practice it) without being aware of it. Simply put, the SoS theory claims that people want to be accepted by others; this is driven by the fear of isolation. To achieve this, we gladly voice our opinions when they fit into the “norm” (or whatever the perceived norm is) while holding back any opinions we feel may go against popular opinion. As the cycle progresses, the “popular” opinions are reinforced as facts, while the “unpopular” and unspoken opinions are suppressed and appear much weaker in popularity than they are in reality.

Anybody who has heard the terms “echo chamber” or “silent majority” is familiar with the SoS theory without even knowing it. The former describes those expressing the “popular” opinion, while the latter expresses the “unpopular” opinion. If you need an example of either of these in action, simply log onto Facebook and scroll for a few minutes. What do you see? If you’re like me, a Libertarian-Republican with a plethora of liberal friends, you see post after post after post about things that do not resonate with your political beliefs. For a while, I would engage these people in debate to try and see things from their side (and with a microscopic hope of possibly leading them to my point of view.) However, all I would get is endless ad-hominem attacks and non-sequiturs that amounted to nothing. After a while, it grew tiring, and I found that I did not want to express my opinions publicly anymore. This was partially to avoid more mind-numbing Facebook feuds, but also to avoid losing friends over political differences.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably engaged in some of this. The Hillary v Trump era saw the majority of these instances, although with Trump winning the election, it hasn’t slowed one bit. Every day I fight the urge to comment on someone’s political status, and I have more and more friends sharing that sentiment to me as well. This is the Spiral of Silence theory in action, and unless we learn to speak our minds freely without fear of social exile, it will continue until one opinion is cemented as fact and the other rejected. Those who deal in absolutes and claim “everybody believes X” or “nobody believes Y” have already reached this stage, so deep in their echo chamber that they may never be able to see the light. Meanwhile, the silent majority will continue to exist in the shadows and come as a complete and utter surprise when their views come to light. Does Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States ring a bell? The liberal media is still shell-shocked that he would have any supporters at all, let alone enough to be elected president, and they remained stunned today because they refuse to acknowledge that a silent majority is a very real thing.

So is this what repression in the social media age feels like? To not be able to express oneself freely due to an intolerant opposition? Welcome to Fascistbook, we hope you enjoy your stay.

There Would Be No Snowplows Without Government

There Would Be No Snowplows Without Government

Last week, there was a large snowstorm where I live. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a New England winter, but it was enough to make the roads basically undrivable.

The next day, I entered into a discussion with someone on social media about government’s role in removing snow from the roads. This person (who was well-aware of my political views) said that “there would be no snowplows without government/taxes.” He was backed up by others saying the same thing.

I made several arguments to try to invalidate what I viewed as a ridiculous proposition. I pointed out that there are already private roads today; many of these roads are plowed without government involvement. Those who own the roads hire someone to plow them, just like any other voluntary transaction. No one in their right mind would argue that there would be no plumbers to fix your toilet or landscapers to mow your lawn if the government were not involved. But yet, the idea of a driver using a tool attached to a car to remove snow and ice from a stretch of pavement without government being included sounds absolutely foreign to many people. The snowplow is hardly a modern technological marvel. We rely on private companies to do things that are astronomically more advanced, such as designing a device that can let us see people on the opposite side of the world through a screen.

Why then, is it so hard for many to imagine how road maintenance could work without government? There are many different theories on how roads could operate in a voluntary society (one without taxation). There have been entire books written about this issue (I highly recommend The Privatization of Roads and Highways by Walter Block), but I’ll outline a few ideas.

Residential roads could be paid for and maintained by homeowners associations or cooperation between neighbors (this already happens in gated communities and other private residential roads). Well-traveled roads would be prime candidates to be toll roads, either on a per use basis or with a subscription (yes, there would be a cost to drivers, but those drivers would have substantially more money in their pockets due to a lack of taxation and the fact that they could choose which services they paid for.) Businesses in a commercial area could enter into a contract with each other to own and maintain nearby roads, as a business has an incentive to allow customers to get to its store. Keep in mind that these are only tentative proposals; if this were to be tried, the market may come up with something even better.

In the social media discussion I was having, I talked about the ideas above and more. And yet, I felt that everything I said wasn’t having much of an effect. This was not a substantive policy discussion; I felt like I was talking to a brick wall with a message written on it. No matter what I said, there was never any thorough examination of my argument. There were only continued assurances that was I proposing would never work; the message never changed.

The interaction was incredibly frustrating to me. As a former conservative, I completely understand how hard it can be to imagine a society without government. Government has performed certain services for our entire lives, and it’s often difficult to think outside the box and question one’s own worldview. I was once the person who said that a society without a coercive government couldn’t work. It was only after hours of reading, listening, and thinking that I realized that a stateless society was a legitimate possibility that would not result in chaos. Even still, the fact that so many people (many of whom are likely very intelligent) could not grasp the idea of supply and demand in the snowplowing industry was perplexing.

Imagine a scenario in which the government announced that it was no longer going to plow the roads. In this scenario, if there were people living on a road who needed to drive somewhere but couldn’t, they wouldn’t just wait around for the snow to melt. People can act and create solutions without government; when there’s a demand for a service, there will be a supply. Those who live in snowy areas would know that plowing would be a frequently-needed service and would come up with a contingency plan ahead of time. To think that these people would say “government won’t plow my road, so no one can” is asinine. Government is not some all-knowing being with superpowers; it is simply another group of people (albeit once that relies on coercive force to fund its actions). There is no service that a government can perform that others cannot.

As those trying to spread the message of freedom, we must remember that sound logic alone will not convince others that a society without a state is advantageous to us. No one likes to feel defeated; a contentious argument often only results in a person digging their heels in more instead of acknowledging their blind spots or contradictions in their thinking. We need to re-examine the way we conduct discussions and debates. Just beating the other person in a battle of reason is not enough.

If at all possible, we must attempt to guide others to an answer rather than show it to them. It is almost always through thinking and self-reflection that one realizes the immorality and dispensability of government, not through being called names in a social media argument. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, although I’ve made a conscious decision in recent years to attempt to cut back. Even still, it’s difficult to overcome years of an unquestioning loyalty to the state by those we are talking to. In my aforementioned discussion about snowplows, I did everything I could to focus on policy and not dismiss anyone’s intelligence. By doing this, I hope to have left open the possibility that I planted a seed in someone’s head that could someday grow and lead them down the same path I’ve gone down.

We must be understanding of the fact that even those who now believe in freedom and self-ownership were not born that way. Many of us were conservatives, liberals, or other ideologies before we got here. Plant seeds and encourage others to ask questions and think for themselves. If we rely on insults and feelings of superiority, we will never achieve our goals.