Libertarianism and anarchism

Ray Shelton asks why libertarians should be linked to anarchism when most of them are not anarchists.

As I’ve said often, today’s libertarianism is characterized by tacit anarchism. Even the libertarians who nominally accept the institution of government are largely tolerant of anarchists, seeing the latter as comrades-in-arms in the battle against the state. Libertarians evaluate people like Murray Rothbard as defenders, rather than enemies, of liberty.

Libertarianism attracts people who are motivated not by a desire to establish a political structure that protects individual rights, but by a hostility toward government. This is why they are so opposed to government’s legitimate function of military defense. This is why their guiding premise is the anti-concept of “non-interventionism.” This is why the Cato Institute, for example, regards Islamic jihadism as no threat to us, and opposes military action on our part to destroy the jihadists.

This anti-state attitude is why Cato has as its slogan, “Individual Liberty, Free Markets and Peace.” The first two are absolute values; the third isn’t. The refusal to wage war is not a virtue if we face foreign threats to our freedom. A genuine advocate of individual liberty would not hold “peace” as a fundamental principle. But an anarchist—whether overt or covert—would.

With respect to libertarian politicians, Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy are almost as bad as Rothbard’s. And while his son, Rand Paul, is moderately better, he too believes in “non-interventionism.” For instance, Iran poses a demonstrable danger to America, but Rand Paul has said that even if it acquires nuclear weaponry, we should simply accept that fact and refrain from any military action against Iran.

There is, sadly, a significant number of people today who have adopted the anti-state philosophy of “non-interventionism,” and apply it as a package-deal to both the military and economic spheres (thereby smearing capitalism in the process).  Consequently, there is a cognitive need to label the ideology they hold—and that label, widely accepted in the mainstream media, is “libertarianism.”

It is now a term that does not represent the political philosophy of Objectivism—or of any supporter of actual liberty.