What Is Your Agenda If Not Liberty?

Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan

Recently on the social-media circuits, a short video of individuals smashing solar panels has been shared with much eagerness. The narrative quoted above the video has ranged from a condemnation of Islam, the third world, low IQ demographics, and Africa in general. The video comes from India. It is a short clip depicting indignant Indians vandalizing the property of a company that had not paid them in some time. Despite information about the event being quickly found, the true story behind the footage does not matter. The intention is to bolster a world view based upon cultural supremacy, despite any smug and glaring ignorance displayed in doing so.

This is a microcosm of wider elements, just one clip that has been hijacked by supremacists and racialists to exhibit just how backwards and demented the “lesser humans” are: a modern day human zoo, showcasing the barbarity of the uncivilized, the non Western. It is nothing new, and it is to be expected from certain hate groups and divisive elements that seek to blame others for their own woes or for the peril of a wider, more perfect society. But it is becoming more widespread, especially among many who claim to hold up the flames of individualism and liberty.

Libertarianism and its many related forms are supposed to be based upon a non-aggression principle, many of which — whether left, right, or simply principled — are supposedly wary of hierarchies, collectives, and most of all coercion. This is a common hallmark of many of those adhering to such philosophies, with deviations and scale relating to property and the role of government, if any, in supporting individual rights being the most contentious aspects. Yet many on social media who commented and shared this video along with its progressive narrative claimed to be libertarians. Some even adopted the handles of Rothbard and used words like “liberty” in their profiles. These individuals are to many the face of a wider philosophy; a philosophy that tends to confuse its detractors as much as its supposed followers.

No ideology is perfect. They are all made up of imperfect human beings. Yet individualism and the acceptance that we are all different as individuals seems obvious. It is apparent in our every day interactions, and yet those who claim to understand this and to embrace it fall back to a vile need to relegate so many others into a clunky defined collective. This is nothing new. It is, in fact, crucial to most movements, to blame and demonize the outsider to suggest an impeccable supremacy of ones own pure identity only to have it defiled by the outsider and their toxic influences. The liberty movement often irritates those outside its fold because it is meant to be above this; its righteousness is in its nuanced values for circumstance and individuals.

In recent times libertarians have attached themselves at the hilt with right-wing blowhards and nationalists, granting them passes so long as both can gang up on the left and celebrate in “capitalism” and western, civilized exceptionalism. It is in many ways a form of “white man’s burden” to spread the virtues of “free markets” and, for some, the rule of limited law. To the right, it is merely rhetoric. But to their buddy libertarians, it is a utopia that they hold dear, so long as they keep swinging right. Often both can unite in a desire to close borders or to extend their military’s reach into distant lands. Security and murder is the religion of the modern right. That seems to be okay with their comrade libertarians, so long as its brown and poor people. The above mentioned video is one in many that only illustrates the eagerness to ignore or omit facts so long as it helps push a crude agenda.

It is the little obvious regard for the poor and the downtrodden that often harms many inside the liberty movement. It is where the left tends to find a foothold among the truly poor. As economically illiterate as the left and its socialist solutions may have been throughout history, there at least lingers the intent and language of compassion — a benevolence that is missing from many inside the liberty movement who seem to concern themselves with their own wealth and even nationalism, which is often in opposition with liberty. It is no longer with the adherence to charity and consideration for those who for whatever reason are not as “ blessed” as others. Instead, an ideological view has arisen by which to blame the people in the dirt: to ignore police, governance, war, exploitation, history, and geography simply to spit at the suffering and point at them smugly through a computer screen declaring they are the fault for it all.

Many inside the liberty movement can agree that truly free-market capitalism has not existed. The capitalism that they imagine, that they champion, is often not the capitalism that the left or many of the poor have experienced. The reality is that the word “capitalism” is a leftist term. It is embraced by many inside the libertarian and anarchist movement with little appreciation for the fact that the word has many meanings. It is an ignorance of history and of those men and women who helped to conjure and define economic and philosophical thought. Neither “side” will truly come to an agreement so long as one champions a word that is to many others a slander. So, instead, the left uses capitalism as a derogatory slur referring to hierarchies, exploitation, cronyism and so on, while many ancaps and libertarians hug onto this slur proudly, never truly defining or proving otherwise the benefits of the free market, as opposed to capitalism.

For those in places of consequence and poverty, capitalism tends to mean corruption, exploitation, cronyism, mercantilism, and colonialism. It is the oppressor’s ideology. The notion of free markets and entrepreneurship is denied and often squashed. Communism, on the other hand, is now synonymous with genocide. Communist regimes have murdered millions upon millions of innocent beings, but genocide is not limited to such coercive regimes or the political-economic ideology. Genocide, and democide for that matter, transcends communism. Just as those on the right claim that real capitalism has never existed, many on the left who identify as communists will often claim that “true” communism has never been realized. And they would most likely be correct. Like free-market capitalism, no real form of utopian socialism has ever existed nor is it likely to ever exist. That does not mean that those ardent believers in communism cannot strive and hope for a fictional Star Trek society to someday manifest itself.

Lost in the wilderness of the mundane, and beyond the exchanges of memes, academic conversations, and political bluster, millions of human beings live their lives with little ability to steer their own, let alone combined, destinies. The luxuries of terms like capitalist and communist, whether praise or slur, is distant to them. They only know the consequences of both, whether the real or imagined definitions. The agendas of many inside the relatively luxuriant regions of the Earth is to use them as props or labor. In any case, the ease in which the dirt poor are exploited is terrible.

The smart devices that are taken for granted exist thanks to the precious earth often ripped from the poorest peoples’ soil. They mine for it. And then when those obsolete or out of trend devices return to their continent, they are expected to recycle them with great risk to health and little reward so that those aristocrats of geopolitics may wait in lines for the newest and best device, even if it differs little from the previous ones. The technology may be different, but the imbalances between those who suffer and those who do not is not. While intellects like Matt Ridley can propose that the world is better than it ever was with a general truth, such optimism is relevant to where one is. To those doomed to war zones, prison states, or who only serve as labor for regimes or corporations, such optimism is not rational; it is a luxury they do not have.

The libertarians those who are from the right — those who took a left term and helped to manufacture it into almost solely a “right” one — are often mute on the poor. They view them with disdain, or simply declare that the market will take care of them — that some how, with one ideological stroke of a wand, all of the impoverished ills of this world can simply be fixed. Some how, if only the poor people embraced Austrian economics and free-market principles, then they will be free of their poverty. It is a childlike and religious perspective that even those who consider themselves politically atheist seem to hold dear. Many inside the third world survive because they understand economics and the marketplace better in actual practice than any Chicago, Austrian, or Keynesian-trained professor. For them, however, it is often a black market that they need operate in, because their usually Western and IMF supported government inhibits their instincts for free enterprise and business.

That is unlike the meme factories on social media, who are likely recipients of welfare and student loans, tenured academics who live on state or college funding despite any ability to survive in the market place, or those who work for a government or corporation because it offers a safe income while they profess liberty and free markets. Those who are poor simply survive as best as they can. Their ideology is necessity and not a choice to be lifted and dropped according to the trends and what persuasive guest appeared on the Joe Rogan podcast or triggered SJWs in an interview. Their perspectives are, and shall be for a long time, drastically different.

The battle for liberty is not a national one. It never has been. It is an individual one. A fight for one’s own intellectual and moral principle, despite the incursions of simplistic narratives. It is not a crusade, just as it is not a jihad, but it is a fight and salvation riled into one. Those who claim to be libertarian, anarchist, or what have you, those who boastfully chant “liberty” absent of compassion for the circumstances of others, should rest alongside their own self-interest. It is not a compassion bred into socialist welfare programs but one that considers that the world is different for those inside the “shithole” countries. Not because they want it to be that way, but because often they are denied the very things many of us take for granted. These are the victims of war and coercion that should be aided to fight back against the state, not ridiculed and “bombed” into ash.

The poor are not simply poor because they are dumb or suffer a low-race-based IQ, despite attempts by pro-Trump libertarian celebrities to push this narrative. They are not poor because of any Marxist class theory either. However, there are rich and poor. And until many realize that they are wealthy so long as they have access to shelter, running water, and can buy food daily, compared to the millions who have none of these aristocratic privileges, then a common appreciation for what is most important in life can seem lost. To be free of bombs, sanctions, concentration camps, and where one is expected to surrender their labour for so little so that those already with so much can enjoy cheaper commodities. The imbalance does exist. Those suffering can find a way out but only in being freed up and convinced that freedom is the answer through examples of liberty and not exploitation in the apparent name of it.

Liberty belongs to everyone. It is not something that we can make happen overnight. It is also not something that we should dare deny others, whether directly or indirectly. Sanctioning, even through rhetoric, the misery of millions simply because it serves a national interest; or embracing racialist theories because it helps a nationalist to sleep better at night, assuming others bring about their own suffering thanks to a natural backwardness, is terrible but simplistic. Liberty has its own agenda; it cannot afford to embrace other ones. It can not afford to defile itself with a celebration of injustice and coercion simply because it seems easier to do so. Liberty only needs its own message. The right, the left, and all the rest need liberty, even when they claim otherwise. The only difference between “us” and “them” is that “we” seek liberty for everyone, not just for ourselves. So, what is your agenda if not liberty?

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Read Scott Horton's new book Fool's Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan