Tuesday, January 8, 2019

How Should Libertarians Respond to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
By Robert Wenzel

At the post,  The Willingness of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Compromise, in a comment, Prof. Dominick Armentano raises a very important question: How should libertarians deal with the mainstream media favorite, socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

He writes:
There are at least two approaches to someone like AOC. The first is to respond to almost every (crazy) thing she says and attempt to rebut it; perhaps even try to turn her toward liberty. The second is to totally ignore her ravings. I'm slightly guilty of the first approach since I wrote an op-ed sometime back refuting her socialist quackery. Now I'm not so sure that is the correct approach. AOC is the new darling of the left-wing media and will always have an outlet for her proposals, nutty though they may be. Further, any criticism of her allows her and her supporters to respond with additional nonsense, i.e., still more media attention. Thus the phenomenon grows farther and wider in the social media world that we now inhabit. Until some lightweight like Andersen Cooper decides to interview, say, Bob or Walter or Tom Woods on "60 Minutes", I say we ignore the clever socialist and stop feeding her ego and the media pump machine.
Prof. Armentano's comment is extremely important and should be discussed amongst libertarians.

What should we do about AOC, given the extreme amount of coverage she is getting from mainstream media?

There is the school of thought that one should never highlight the views of those who hold opposing views. But this seems to apply more to situations where an off-the-wall view is not garnering much attention. By responding to it, one is simply providing a wider spotlight on the nutty views.

In the case of AOC, this certainly doesn't apply. She is getting an incredible amount of attention, without any help from libertarians. P. Krugman in the New York Times has already referenced her in at least two columns. "60 Minutes" has already featured her on its show. "60 Minutes"!

Any attacks held back by libertarians for fear it will generate more attention for her doesn't apply. She is already gaining attention without us. And her following continues to grow. When I last wrote about her sizable Twitter following, less than two months ago in November 2018, she "only" had around 1.5 million Twitter followers. She now has over 2 million.

Given her massive and growing following, it is strategically called for that we do attack her positions when they are incorrect. We want to catch as many eyes and ears of those following her that we can, on the chance that a few of those who are more independent thinkers grasp what we are saying.

And I emphasize that it should be her thinking that is attacked. It should not be the neoright-style efforts to attack her personally, such as the posting of a dance video she appeared in during college. Her followers will have no problem seeing this as an attack on her power and not her positions and will dismiss such and see it as weakness.

Current libertarians must understand that we are the vanguard of a very early movement. It is probably an error for the neoright to attack her but that is a much larger group that I would say includes the hardcore Trump followers. That's tens of millions.

Libertarians, however, are a minnow in this ocean. For us, responding to her can be of strategic value. It may gain us attention and comments from followers of hers who may have a following of their own. And this is a positive. It will introduce libertarian thinking to even more. It is not a risky move for us.

Further, by responding to her with logical arguments, it will provide a source for the rare individual who will seek out to find what the opposition to AOC may have to say about her. As the neoright will mostly use Trumpian-style insults and other personal attacks against her, we will really have pretty much the logical argument field to ourselves.

This won't capture the masses but it could introduce libertarianism to strong and independent thinkers---the types we sorely need more of at present. Individuals who can be significant contributors to our second-hand dealings in libertarian ideas.

As far as flipping AOC to libertarianism, early on when I launched the #CommitteeToFlipAlexandriaOcasioCortez, I wrote:
As for the possibility of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez flipping. I have no idea if that is possible. A politician is probably more difficult to flip than an intellectual. Maybe there is a 3% chance but that is why in my essay launching the #CommitteeToFlipAlexandriaOcasioCortez  I wrote about the failure of the Burgundy Circle in its focus on one person and went on:
We need to attempt to flip her away from wacky socialist ideas and show her the pitfalls of central power in any sector. At her young age, she is probably still susceptible enough to truth and honesty to listen to libertarian views...Now there are dangers with focusing on one person...

Thus, I  propose that The Committee to Flip Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, issue open letters to Ocasio-Cortez here at Target Liberty and at EPJ outlining the many confusions and contradictions in her socialist policy views. By being open letters, they will have the potential to reach far beyond Ocasio-Cortez.
Another point that has been raised is that Ocasio-Cortez would not be getting the support she has received if she didn't promise so many socialist style giveaways. But I believe this underestimates her. I see her as more than just a politician. She is a skilled communicator. A very strong secondhand dealer in ideas. And I write as someone who spotted her potential before the upset election victory and before mainstream media did.

In my view, if she somehow recognized the power of free markets, and the coercion and failure that is inherent in socialism, she would have the skill to know how to communicate that message as few would.

That said, if the #CommitteeToFlipAlexandriaOcasioCortez does nothing but counters Ocasio-Cortez socialist policy proposals, it will be a valuable service to anyone attempting to understand the alternatives to socialism.
My view hasn't changed much since then. However, I would now put the odds of flipping her at even less than 3%, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.003%.

The more I see of her, the more I am convinced she is a skilled Leninist. She wants power, that is what drives her. She is not seeking truth in any fashion. She is using policy issues and alliances in a very skilled manner to advance the only cause she is really interested in: Power to AOC and the greater the power the better, That agenda doesn't sit too well with a live and let live philosophy.

AOC is a very dangerous foe, the more converts we can make out of her followers, very limited though they are likely to be, the better. Our best tool is reason and we should use it against her and her followers wherever we can, in public essays and private discussions.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of


  1. I would say: Hold your fire until she says something truly ridiculous, then let fly with sharp (hopefully) ridicule.
    I know, I know, that's a tough call.

  2. I agree that ridicule and humor is the best approach with all those who seek power. Modern tar and feather. Problem is that education has been indoctrinating for a long time, reason can't win. Humor and entertainment to win eyeballs and clicks seems to be a better strategy right now. As much as free market types dislike marketing...

    1. I agree. Sadly, nowadays critical thinking, reason and logic can't compete with "but I learned it in school---my all-wise and learned teachers and professors said so!"
      We need a Separation of Education and State. Abolish government schooling, if we are to have hope for breaking the cycle of churning-out new Marxists every generation.

  3. I think we should attack her ideas vigorously with both humor and scholarship. There are so few of us and no one understands a thing we say anyway. What we do or say will not make her more famous in any event. We will never flip many people but there are many people who know little about these topics and they may be swayed by a good demonstration that her ideas are horrible and that she is a phony lightweight.

  4. I am tired of seeing stuff about her, but maybe she is a bigger deal than I am aware of, so a vigorous attack seems warranted while not ignoring everything else.

  5. I've been debating public policy issues for over 50 years. I've had many, many debates with economists and attorneys over the theory and history of antitrust policy. Never, never in any of these debates (or after) has any opponent ever said: "You know what, you are absolutely correct about monopoly theory and history and I'm going to change my views on antitrust policy." Perhaps in some objective sense I was not persuasive enough...but I sincerely doubt that. Now, if we are unable to shift someone's public policy position on antitrust policy, on minimum wage laws, on climate change regulations, on rent controls, etc., even at the margin, when both parties accept (at least implicitly) reason and logic and honesty as base-line starting points, how pray tell are you going to deal effectively with a clever Leninist like AOC? My guess is that she will simply deny your "history" deny your "theory" deny your "logic" and attack you as a racist white male beholding to the existing power structure. Who wins that one? She does, so long as the MSM culturally loves her and gives her the last word. Our only hope it would seem is to convince early lefty supporters (like Krugman) that her positions are nonsense and must be modified or abandoned. But, as I argued above, lefty economists and attorneys (let alone politicians) almost never change their core positions so good luck with that strategy. My advise: Ignore her. She is already over-exposed and the media may well tire of her and go on to the next big thing. But to constantly pay attention to her every move is to play a cultural game (it's her game) that we simply cannot win at this point.

  6. "How Should Libertarians Respond to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?"

    With tar and feathers. She's just another taxcreature (I can't really call socialists human after the megamurder they always commit after coming to power).