The Madonna movie was entitled Desperately Seeking Susan. Here, Madonna plays Susan, a wild woman of adventure who switches clothes and identities with a bored housewife who is the total opposite of her. Madonna goes from liberal to conservative in a sense. Rosanna Arquette plays Roberta, the bored housewife who goes from conservative to liberal.
That brings me to the point, here, of libertarian switch-a-roos, a common sight these days, post-September 11th. The clothes and identities are being peeled off, and the switches are becoming clear. We see many Libertarians, paleolibertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and others — who claim to abhor the State and its freedom-robbing edicts — switching to the other side while claiming to remain libertarians. By "other side", I mean the side that supports the centralizing State and its war, folks.
I always find it mirth-provoking that those writers who claim to be such great proponents of libertarianism can identify so readily with the warmongering crowd, lead by the statist Left and the neocon Right. A favorite tactic of such switch-a-roo types is to usurp the quote words of great libertarian, anti-war thinkers, and somehow use those words in a dialectic fashion to support the war position. Meaning, if a writer who calls himself a libertarian can in some sense convey — however mistakenly — that Mises or Rothbard were actually pro-war, then they have successfully — in their own mind — satisfied their self-created requirements for libertarian club membership. This, I suppose, allows them to skate around the notion that they have sold out their principles and values during a most trying time. And indeed, these are the times that try libertarian's souls, as Thomas Paine might say, were he alive.
Another favored tactic is when a "libertarian" writer interviews anyone considered even remotely pseudo-libertarian knowing that person has some acclaim value among general libertarians for a given piece of work and the writer attempts to show the rest of us "evil non-interventionists" that yes, here we have an historian respected by libertarians and whatnot, who also thinks as he does, so therefore, his contentions must not be the sell-out position. The problem is, one or two respected pieces of work do not make a libertarian, nor typically does the interviewee claim to be such. It's a tactic to save face at the embarrassing loss of principle. It doesn't work, because we know who the sell-outs are.
Who do I consider the sell-outs? Start with the "libertarians" who get all caught up in the war fever and concur with the use of total military might against an undefined enemy. Can those holding libertarian principles philosophically commit to total war against "terrorism", when terrorism is not a specific, defined enemy?
Then there are those "libertarians" that refuse to blame the hatred of the U.S. on a long history of empire, bombing innocents overseas, sanctions against foreign peoples, covert operations propping up puppet foreign governments, choosing sides in the Israel-Arab world, and military occupation around the globe. After all, as Murray Rothbard states, "The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else." Non-aggression is the central axiom, or core belief if you may, of libertarian philosophy. That means unprovoked foreign intervention is not tolerable to any libertarian, at any time. What part of this is not understood by those who purport to be libertarians?
These libertarian postulants still insist that Americana Apple Pie-ism is the central target of terrorists. And even when the terrorists tell us exactly why they attack us, well, they say we can't believe that either, even though the whole point of terrorism is to bring attention to the perceived problems and demands of the terrorists.
And there are the centralizing "libertarians" who basically say, I am a libertarian, but I support the State and its greater centralization for the added security it will provide for us. And also, we have the "libertarians" who claim that freedom requires safety, and that safety can only be provided by government, and that obviously then requires that we support the State against any and all of its declared enemies, even when that enemy is its own citizenry. Hence, real "libertarians" like them support the Terrorism bills because it means more freedom!
Murray Rothbard also had this to say on security and foreign policy: "Far beyond fear lies ‘collective security,' and the playing of the supposedly destined American role upon the world stage."
September 11th turned up the heat in the kitchen, and the most compelling tragedy that our generation has ever faced is slowly separating the men from the boys, the women from the girls. It remains to be seen who else will lay down their libertarian guns and jump ship when the fire gets too hot.
Hey, no problem, the neocons are always looking for dedicated converts.
November 1, 2001
Karen De Coster, CPA, [send her mail] is a freelance writer and graduate student in economics, and works as a business consultant in the Midwest.
Copyright © 2001 Karen De Coster