“Libertarianism is about accepting people. Anyone can be a libertarian. Are you homophobic? That’s okay, as long as you adhere to the Constitution. Do you secretly hate black people? No one minds, as long as you don’t act on your racism and join the KKK. The beauty of libertarianism is that no one can decide exactly what a libertarian is and therefore you can be a libertarian even if you’re a xenophobic, woman-hating, Nazi sociopath as long as you don’t impose your beliefs on others.”
I posted this on my Facebook page as a tongue-in-cheek commentary over the recent debates over who should be considered a libertarian and why. I naturally thought my facetious statements would be taken as such but was surprised to see people agreeing with them.
Can a Nazi be a libertarian? Hypothetically, I suppose, just as the Westboro Baptist Church is technically Christian despite the fact that their intolerance of various groups disregards the basic tenets of their faith.
I’m all for accepting left and right libertarians. I accept that there is no “Ten Commandments” of liberty and that there will always be disagreements over what makes a person a libertarian. I have long believed that there should be no such thing as a libertarian litmus test but, at the same time, I hate to see libertarianism becoming the garbage dump of political thought. While there are many types of libertarians, we need to be careful about just how inclusive we are.
Libertarianism is a political ideology, not a religion. As libertarians, we should respect people but are not obligated to accept them as comrades. As a movement, we are allowed to be selective. We should be selective. Tolerating the intolerant only serves to corrupt libertarianism. I have no desire to be associated with people who claim to believe in freedom but also believe that certain races are inferior. There is a difference between tolerating an individual’s beliefs and accepting them.
So where do we draw the line? What separates a libertarian (an admittedly broad term encompassing many kinds of libertarians) from a non-libertarian? For me, the line is drawn when people outwardly express intolerance for a non-threatening behavior or group of people or otherwise act in a way that violates the principles of liberty.
Why can’t a Nazi be a true libertarian? Because the core beliefs of Nazism go against the core beliefs of libertarianism. A belief system that preaches intolerance for a group of people goes against the basic principles of libertarianism. Respect for the rights of the individual is the unifying theme of all types of libertarianism.
As a libertarian, I can respect the right of a Nazi to possess his beliefs despite the fact that they go against my own. I can tolerate a person whose behavior I find immoral provided they are not infringing upon another person’s freedom. As a libertarian, I believe that people are entitled to their opinions and beliefs and my approval of their behavior is inconsequential. My tolerance does not automatically make such people libertarians, however.
An inclusive, accepting liberty movement may gain more followers but that doesn’t necessarily make it stronger. The criteria to be a libertarian is broad and ambiguous enough; let’s not lose sight of common sense in the name of expansion.