Although I find Kenyon’s analysis of the radical socialists interesting, ultimately I disagree with his categorization of libertarianism’s 3 options:
- Libertarians can allow themselves to be absorbed into the Republican Party and work to expand the Liberty caucus.
- Libertarians can abandon the Republican Party to work exclusively through the Libertarian Party.
- Libertarians can jettison electoral politics altogether and refuse to be governed by majoritarianism and statism.
The first one will happen to the Tea Party movement. The second one is not workable, as the author admits. Nothing can be done about either. As for the truly radical approach, we are not violent revolutionaries and are never going to be.
What’s missing from that article is something fundamental — people get the government they deserve. We need to make this country deserve better. If a choir chants “we” in chorus, it is still the individuals speaking. Unless libertarians actively change individuals, society will not budge.
Whether or not the Tea Party people win or lose a few national elections is, by itself, irrelevant. Policies that the public doesn’t support won’t go anywhere, and policies they do will. Political activists, no matter how dedicated, can’t cram unwanted ideologies down the public’s throat.
The Tea Party will probably manage to send a handful of delegates off to DC. Unfortunately, those delegates won’t be able to get much accomplished without the support of significant political machinery. The two national parties are loose coalitions; a few extra butts in DC don’t change much. To alter the political landscape, you have to change the make-up of the coalition itself.
Which brings us back around to that article. In truth, we have only one option. Whether or not you believe the political process is the way to get our ideas implemented, outreach is the only way anything is ever going to happen.
To those who want political action: No matter how much you support the Tea Party and its candidates, politics is, at the end of the day, still about boots on the ground. Without a concerted effort to bring individuals around to our point of view, all the political activism is for naught. Until libertarians can consistently swing a close primary or major election, no one will care. If libertarians aren’t the people politicians need to go to for money, they aren’t going to listen. If libertarians aren’t the local office holders and party functionaries politicians need help from to make that big national run, they aren’t going to give our faction the time of day. All the wonders of the internet and modern technology won’t change that — organizations like governments and political parties are designed to be robust. Until you start changing the key pieces, the machine isn’t going to run any differently.
To those who don’t care for politics: No matter how much you would rather take direct action — you too need to focus on outreach. No amount of trouble-making or activism will produce change. Until the public supports your ideology, all of your civil disobedience and propaganda is in vain.
Thus, at the end of the day, outreach is the only course of action. In contrast to the picture presented by Kenyon’s article, there is not and should not be a split between those who want “action” and those who want “politics” — neither “action” nor “politics” will work unless we have already won the battle of ideas.
No matter what your goal, the road is the same — you can’t change the government without first changing the people. Having our ideas reach critical mass must be the first step in any plan.
Kenyon is right to say that libertarians should be careful not to repeat the mistakes made by past movements, but a strategic split between radicals and compromisers is not one of them — at this point any infighting only weakens the movement. Instead, the mistake we should be worrying about is moving too quickly. Ideas shape revolutions. If we want a libertarian revolution, we need to promote libertarian ideas. Nothing short of that will succeed. If we try to force our ideas upon a country that does not want them and is not ready for them, things will get much worse before they get better.