Monday, May 6, 2019

Should Libertarians Be Afraid to Tell Others That They Are Libertarian?

By Robert Wenzel

There is a libertarian supper group in Berkeley that I rarely attend but I do receive their notices. An item on a recent agenda notice put up for discussion whether libertarians should let it be generally known that they are libertarians.

I was shocked to see this. I hardly ever fail to identify myself as a libertarian when the exchange calls for it.

I mean the American Revolution has delivered us a country with many, many faults but it is still the closest thing to liberty so far on earth.

Do I need to remind others that revolutionary patriots died in the battle for liberty? Are we now going to wimp out in just conversational exchange?

I find that being upfront about one's views on liberty and economics is the best approach. As I detailed at EPJ, this is how I approached James Bullard, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:
Hi, I'm Bob Wenzel. I'm one of those guys that thinks you are going to crash the economy at some point again.
I have an acquaintance that I talk to from time to time. He was a high-level Cabinet member in a former administration.

Because I have been open with him, our conversations are quite interesting. I have learned a lot about the inner workings of government while at the same time I have had him read, The Counter-Revolution of Science by F. A. Hayek.

One of the most interesting moments came during the height of the Greek financial crisis, when he asked, "Bob, what would the Austrians do?"

In my view, the higher up a person is in the current regime, the more clear I am going to make it as to how opposite my view is. Generally, when I am introduced to a politician my opening line is, "Well, I am an anarchist but I do like to know the people in power."

Now, sometimes for strategic reasons, I won't over press the point. The other day I had lunch with an international intellectual. I did identify myself as a libertarian but pretty much after that I just listened to him rather than object every time he said something that was non-libertarian. My goal was to learn his full thinking rather than to just get off on one point.

At other times when I am going to see a person regularly, I am not going to pour the entire libertarian philosophy on at once.

Depending on the climate at where you work it may not be wise to bring up your libertarian leanings. I know some pretty hardcore libertarians that work in DC for the government, for example. I don't mind if they keep their mouths shut at work. I consider them infiltrators, the eyes and ears for those of us on the outside.

But outside of some employment situations those who want to advance liberty should do so without being a wimp about it. Focus should be made on practising and developing ways to be honest about your libertarianism in a way that doesn't offend others and causes them to be curious and want to exchange in civil discussion with you.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank and most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.


  1. I was a Libertarian although not any more. But I definitely have Libertarian leanings which I would not hesitate to share when appropriate. But Libertarianism cannot survive in an age of mass migrations and open borders. In addition it can only survive in a high trust, majority White population. We already are past the "High Trust" part and we will soon pass the majority White milestone.

    1. Interesting. I don't read about too many who were libertarian but abandon that label, so I'm curious, how would you classify yourself now? Have you dropped all libertarian positions, or just some? Certainly there are self-labeled libertarians who support state management of borders.

    2. American Nationalist first and libertarian nearly everywhere else, perhaps. I have left pure AnCap libertarianism for the same reason as RW? states.

    3. Sounds like you abandoned it simply because it "can't survive" under present conditions. Are all your principles subject to popular vote and mob-rule? Asking for a friend.

    4. I would say AnCap ideals may be great. Unfortunately, they can not survive, not because of present conditions, but rather because of immutable condition (e.g.: the nature of man).

    5. Sherlock, that might be true, but it's no reason for someone to abandon the philosophy. We'll never have a world without murder, but that doesn't mean that we should stop teaching folks that it's wrong, and work to minimize it. Likewise, we shouldn't stop teaching folks that the state is a moral travesty and an economic absurdity, and try to minimize its influence.

    6. With that I am more on board. This is just the train of thought I've been on lately, intigated by our discussions on immigration a few months ago.

    7. So, you understand the non-aggression principle but you abandoned it because you're afraid of brown people? You are a coward, sir.

      Immigration is just Glob Warming for conservatives.

  2. I have never been afraid of presenting myself as a libertarian. Ever. I am also not afraid of calling out false 'libertarians' who turned their coats after the New York con-man promised them a wall to keep brown people from entering and co-habitating with their daughters, thus demonstrating that they were not as anti-state as they pretended to be.

  3. Libertarian’s face the same issues as all do that classify themselves within an ism: the misunderstanding of the ism. Libertarianism seems to be one of the most misunderstood isms, even by those that call themselves libertarian.

    The comment by Robert What? is a case in point. If you practice and believe everyone should practice the NAP, you are a libertarian. Mr. What? may be correct about the survival of libertarianism but that doesn’t mean the philosophy is incorrect.

    Isn’t one of the arguments made by libertarians that most people abide by the NAP most of the time? Even though it is a small percentage of times that the NAP is broken, that small percentage has a huge effect on society. Still I doubt that mass migration of non-whites will change this enough so that libertarianism cannot survive.

    Because libertarianism is so misunderstood and the Libertarian political party has been a disaster, and also because I am on the far reaches of libertarianism – anarcho-capitalism (talk about a misunderstood term). I prefer to limit labeling myself as libertarian. Rather than calling myself a libertarian or anarcho-capitalist, I tend to say, “I’m a private property guy,” and talk about voluntary associations and the initiator of force being an immoral party. If based on this, I am referred to as a libertarian, no problem.

    1. I like you description and may have to use it as a way to diffuse the Idiocracy that I come in contact with.

    2. Spot-on.
      Libertarianism is conflated with so many concepts nowadays, that it can require much of a conversation just to clear-up what is meant by the term: Is it Libertarian-socialism? Libertine-ism? Bleeding-heart/SJW-libertarianism? Paleo-conservatism?
      These days, I usually just identify with being a "voluntaryist" or "anarcho-capitalist," and just explain that morality and civilization is the triumph of persuasion (the NAP) over force, and that I'm in favor of "anything that's peaceful;" Everything flows from there: freedom, property rights, capitalism, mutual cooperation, trade, division of labor, specialization, etc. etc.

    3. I like to start simple, such as "I'm against the use of force against peaceful people." Almost everyone will nod in agreement. Then I explain that the individuals at the state use force in everything that they do, and therefore I'm against the state because I apply the same standard to every human. This forces them to confront their intellectual inconsistency. That's enough for one day.

    4. Most people will not confront their intellectual inconsistencies. Not if that will lead to most of their political/social/world views being turned upside down and blown to pieces. This is true for even those that typically seem to use logic and reason.

      One of my older brothers, a now retired professor of history who describes himself on Facebook as far left, will not allow himself to admit that forced redistribution as it is currently implemented by the state, requires theft. He will not say that it is or is not theft but will justify it as ethical due to the needs of people. What I hear is, yes it is theft but theft is okay under certain circumstances. This is what we are dealing with.