In recent years, libertarian ideas have infiltrated previously inaccessible forums, especially mainstream cable talk shows, with an increasing frequency. (Remember Freedom Watch? Bring back Judge Nap!) This reality has presented an opportunity for the ideals of liberty to reach new audiences. This increase in popularity has made liberty more visible, but has given those that side with the State the platform to challenge libertarian philosophy.
An invitation into the mainstream discussion is a welcome change for liberty lovers across the globe. It should not come as a surprise that many in the establishment are slow to grant libertarians respect. In the past few days, attempts to discredit libertarians have been presented in an undeniably hostile manner. The arguments delivered by the usual mouthpieces for government intervention at home and abroad have been vicious and immature. This has left many in the liberty movement feeling violated and itching to punch back.
During John Stossel’s Fox Business show, guests Ann Coulter and John Bolton aggressively attacked libertarian positions that promote drug legalization and a foreign policy of non-intervention. For this annual show, Stossel invited guests friendly to the cause of liberty and some that disagree vehemently with certain aspects of libertarian philosophy. This year’s episodes, which were taped in front of over 1,000 liberty loving students, featured fireworks from Coulter and Bolton that sent waves throughout the political community.
Ann Coulter appeared on Stossel’s Thursday night show and did not attempt to camouflage her opinion regarding the stance libertarians take towards illegal drugs. A summary of the interview can be found at mediaite.com. When Coulter was questioned regarding legalizing drugs she responds by saying, “This is why I think libertarians are pussies.” Then Coulter proceeds to explain:
We’re living in a country that is 70-percent socialist, the government takes 60 percent of your money. They are taking care of your health care, of your pensions. They’re telling you who you can hire, what the regulations will be. And you want to suck up to your little liberal friends and say, ‘Oh, but we want to legalize pot.’ You know, if you’re a little more manly you would tell them what your position on employment discrimination is. How about that? But it’s always ‘We want to legalize pot.’
Stossel’s guest the next night, former G.W. Bush official John Bolton, was equally combative towards the liberty loving audience. Bolton was irked when the crowd erupted into boos, in response to his statement that killing hundreds of thousands during the Civil War, with no due process, was the right thing to do. Once again, mediaite.com provides a summary of the exchange:
The Skeptical Libertarian editor Daniel Bier then asked a question that drew massive applause from the students: “The large majority of Americans support giving the president the authority to kill American citizens without charges or trial or due process. My question is, if you were identified as a threat by some nameless official in the administration, would you want due process?”
“The issue is whether we are in a war situation, whether we are operating under the war powers of the Constitution or whether we are in a law enforcement situation,” Bolton responded. “The two have radically different approaches. We killed tens of thousands of American citizens, maybe hundreds of thousands with no due process in the Civil War, and it was the right thing to do.”
As the room erupted into some booing at the notion of suspending due process for any reason, Bolton snapped back, “You want to discredit a movement, defend the Confederacy. Go ahead.”
In order to learn how, as libertarians, we should be responding to attacks of this nature, let’s examine what Murray Rothbard had to say on the subject of libertarian outreach.
Rothbard points out that it is important to know the types of individuals that should be targeted for conversion to libertarianism. He says the goal is not to convert, “Dan Rather, the establishment, or the Bush administration.” The reason for this directive is simple; those people do not hate the government. Many in this category have made a very profitable living working for the government and believe government force is necessary. Coulter and Bolton would fall into this grouping. Coulter worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1994 when the Republicans took control of congress and Bolton has held many different jobs, in varying capacities for several federal departments. It is fun to argue and debate with neoconservatives similar to Bolton and Coulter, but if libertarians want to grow the base, they must realize few converts will come from this background.
What type of person do we seek to convert? Murray would advise finding people who already hate the government. He uses gun control as an example, while citing the difference of opinions found in urban and rural areas. It is much easier to find an individual in favor of gun rights in the countryside, then it is to find gun rights advocates in New York City. Rothbard points out that once you find a prospect for liberty conversion that hates government intrusion in one aspect of their life, make sure to hold them accountable to include all aspects of private property and freedom. This is a very useful philosophical exercise for those new to liberty.
Ann Coulter and neoconservatives like her do not understand this libertarian concept. They think that we are being sympathetic to liberals when we agree that drugs should be legal. When in fact we are seeking to convert them based on their own mistrust of government surrounding this issue. Once a common ground has been found where both parties agree the government is wrong to intervene, then the next step is to reveal that the government is always wrong to intervene in aspects of private property and freedom.
In case you missed it last week, Ann Coulter’s and John Bolton’s appearances on Stossel are embedded below. Enjoy, but do not get too bent out of shape over their attacks. They do not represent the type of people liberty lovers are trying to reach.
Check out our past installments of Mondays with Murray:
- 2/18/13 – Rothbard vs. Krugman on $9 Minimum Wage
- 2/11/13 – Time To Hoard Nickels
- 2/4/13 - The Death of Keynesian Economics
- 1/28/13 – Competition and Monopoly
- 1/21/13 – Rothbard Down The Memory Hole?
- 1/14/13 – We Are Not The Government
- 1//7/13 – Why Does Someone Become A Statist?
- 12/10/12 – Rothbard on Conspiracy Theory
- 12/3/12 – Rothbard on Secession
- 11/26/12 – Rothbard on the Drug War
- 11/19/12 – Rothbard on the Euro Crisis
- 11/12/12 – Rothbard on the Lions of Liberty
- 11/5/12 – Rothbard on Voting and Gas Lines
- 10/29/12 – Mythbusting the “Free Market Cartel”
- 10/22/12 – Rothbard on the Two Party Charade
- 10/15/12 – Rothbard on Private Roads
- 10/8/12 – Rothbard on Private Law
- 10/1/12 – Rothbard on Ron Paul
- 9/24/12 – Rothbard on QE