Obtuse: Some Libertarians, Criticism and Deliberately Missing the Point

Posted: Nov 10, 2013 12:01 AM

When you bait a hook, you hope to catch a fish. Thursday I baited a hook, and I caught a lot of fish.

I had intended to write today’s column with the title “The Problem With Conservatives,” because there are some too. But I enjoyed the feedback I got from poking the bear so much I thought I’d grab another stick.

By daring to criticize “Libertarians” (yeah, I’m capitalizing it since it bothers certain people so much) for their ineffectiveness, laziness and general apathy while what they claim to so prize is slipping away, the flying monkey brigade of indifference was unleashed. Good.

The majority of tweets, emails and feedback I received were positive, and some were just this side of hyperventilating. But few of them were on point. They were mostly flipping the bird as they turned the corner while taking their ball and going home.

In other words, they illustrated my point while “destroying” it.

An overwhelming amount of hyperbolic, self-congratulatory back-patting tweets came from people, a large percentage of whom work/write/edit for Reason magazine (or at least claim to in their Twitter bios), which is odd but also oddly illustrative of my point. I said nice things about Reason in my original piece. Not only nice things, but it was majority nice. The rest was constructive criticism.

They do great work at Reason. They cover important stories the majority of the media ignores, and they throw fun parties (met my fiancé at one). But apparently they take breaks from that great work to spend a lot of time attacking and arguing about what some “irrelevant” person wrote that was just “stupid.”

What none of them, those at Reason and elsewhere, did was refute what I wrote. They simply became it.

Andrew Kirell, who is an editor at the site Mediaite, wrote the most tweeted “takedown” of me, but it was also one of the weakest. He seemed to take my piece personally in spite of the fact that I’d never heard of him until someone tweeted his article to me. That’s fine. It’s sad, but it’s his life.

His points, as they were, consist of truly childish pettiness.

First, my capitalization of “Libertarian” rather than using a lower-case “L.” Two answers to that: 1) take it up with an editor, and 2) get a hobby.

Second, he doesn’t like my asking, “Honestly, what does being a Libertarian mean beyond legalizing drugs, banging hookers and sitting by while the rest of the world blows itself up?” He responded to that with, “It should be quite clear by now that Hunter is just mad that libertarians aren’t conservatives. By picking the issues on which libertarians and conservatives most vehemently disagree, he conveniently broadsides the whole movement as being solely about the “hookers” and drugs. In other words: Why can’t you libertarians just invade more countries and lock up more people for victimless crimes?”

Since I’d never heard of Kirell before Friday, how he professes to know what I think and my motives on anything will be a mystery for the ages. I think prostitution should be legal, support most drug decriminalization and oppose most military action. But I also know hookers, getting high and bringing our troops home from abroad aren’t exactly the keys to saving the Republic.

Libertarians hate social conservatives, and I’m hardly social conservatives’ best defender since I’m not and never have been one. But I don’t run in fear of them because I believe the top priority should be defeating the progressive agenda, wherever it is. Libertarians are happy to see a fiscal conservative defeated at the polls because they happen to be a social conservative too. That’s not only short-sighted, it’s stupid.

George W. Bush was a socially conservative President, yet last I checked abortion was legal between 2001 and 2009 and Las Vegas had not been Dresden-ed into oblivion. Gay people were not rounded up nationwide, nor in Texas when he was governor there. In short, what difference does it make if any politician is a social conservative? How did it affect the life of Andrew Kirell? It doesn’t. This is not to defend Bush, who was a disgrace on fiscal issues, as were Republicans under him.

Not done digging, Andrew writes, “What’s more is that Reason constantly offers up policy solutions and waxes poetic about libertarian “philosophy” (since that’s what libertarianism is, a philosophy). They just get ignored by partisan conservatives like Mr. Hunter, who wave away any policy that involves cuts to the military, scaling back the surveillance state or legalizing certain victimless crimes.”

On the first part, I thought I’d covered that by praising them. Apparently not. But on the ignored part, he’s dead wrong. They are disregarded by design.

Like it or not, for any of that “philosophy” to move beyond chatter over microbrews and be enacted, “partisan conservatives” in government are going to have to be engaged. Wanting something to be won’t make it so. Having a great idea won’t change anything if you refuse to work with and friends attack opponents in the position of power to enact it.

On the rest, it’s just lazy. I’ve written and spoken extensively in support of military cuts – no budget item that large isn’t full of waste, fraud and unnecessary garbage. I’ve attacked the NSA – but the NSA already knows that – and I’ve already covered victimless crimes.

All that and more could have been uncovered through some simple Googling. But Andrew and his friends were mad, and mad trumps thinking and logic. That trumping of logic, that knee-jerk emotional response, is the point.

Libertarian hatred, anger, disappointment, whatever you want to call it, toward conservatives causes them to function irrationally and against their self-interest. Libertarians agree with conservatives on probably 80 percent of the issues. Yet they can’t or won’t get past the remaining 20 percent. So they cheer a conservative loss as some sort of philosophical victory, and we get Obamacare. How’s that working out for the cause of liberty?

Had Kirell contacted me about what I’d written we could’ve had what I suspect would’ve been an interesting conversation. But he didn’t. He didn’t even have the courage to tweet me his post when it went live. Others did or else I wouldn’t have known it existed. To have the courage of your convictions you should at least have the courage to engage in a discussion of them.

We eventually chatted a bit on Twitter and he seems like an all right guy. But he still didn’t seem to get it. I asked him for victories his philosophy has racked up over the last 20 years and he did have a list. It included the Internet, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, school choice and Supreme Court decisions on guns. Great, except…

The Internet is on the verge of being usurped by “net neutrality” regulations, especially if more progressives Democrats are elected. Even without that, the FCC is always ready to do it through regulatory fiat since President Obama appoints the majority and there’s big money pushing for it.

Rand Paul and Justin Amash, I hate to say it, are Republicans. They’re doing it right – working within the system to change it. Hate the system all you want – and who doesn’t? But it’s not going anywhere.

On school choice, the Heller gun rights case, and more, court victories came because conservatives won elections and appointed judges. They’re great victories, don’t get me wrong –and too many squishy Second Amendment groups sat on their hands for the majority of Heller out of fear of losing. But they’re one death or retirement away from being gone forever.

Conservative justices tend to respect precedent; progressive justices do not. Cheer the defeats of McCain and Romney all you want, but if you’re interested in liberty you’d better find a way to keep five Supreme Court Justices healthy, alive and able to work for the next three years or you can kiss your past and future victories goodbye.

That’s the crux of it – the short-sighted nature of critics of my original piece exemplifies the problem. By refusing to even vocally and sternly lay out some general principles of what it means to be a Libertarian, the movement leaves the term open to bastardization. And it’s been bastardized.

Kirell does give me credit for this, then complains I didn’t include Glenn Beck in my criticism. I don’t follow or listen to Glenn Beck, so I have no idea what claims to make about him, nor do I care. For that matter, I didn’t single out Bill Maher to attack Bill Maher. I did it to make a point. Kirell knows this, cedes as much, but needs to ignore it to attack me as a “partisan.” Whatever.

I enjoy pissing off people, and I enjoy engaging people who disagree with me in discussion. You can’t be a radio host and not. But I don’t like illogic and I don’t like hypocrites. One of the things liberal callers to my show do is, when confronted with an inconvenient fact, play the “Yeah, but Republicans did X, Y, or Z too!” Or first. Or 50 years ago, or something of that sort. It’s a lazy argument and a way to dodge a point you can’t refute. Build a time machine, and I’ll happily go back and refight things I had no voice in or wasn’t alive during while you congratulate yourself.

But until you build that time machine, how about we deal with the world in which we live now and the future? We can legalize drugs and prostitution, bring all our troops home and slash the military. But we’ll still have Obamacare, a debt higher than our GDP and more in unfunded liabilities than there is wealth on the planet. And government will continue to grow.

I’m sure there were people on the Titanic who warned of setting the engines full-steam ahead because there was a possibility of an iceberg, but I doubt they died with the warm smugness of having been right. They just died … in icy water in the middle of a dark ocean. Libertarians revel in attacking conservatives for their faults, and many of the attacks are deserved. But refusing to engage, get involved and fight to change minds – as opposed to preaching to the choir – means nothing when they’re going to drown if we hit the iceberg progressives have set us up to hit.

I hope it changes, but I highly doubt it will.

Final note. I won’t link to those who engaged me on Twitter, even the nasty ones, because they had the courage and courtesy to do so directly. But I did find it amusing that I got a lot of “Libertarians don’t have a purity test!” tweets accompanied by “you’re not” or “you never were” tweets. If there is no purity test, not even nebulous guidelines, how can they say?

Libertarians have a lot of passion. I just wish it were focused and mobilized for, rather than against, achieving goals for liberty. If you want to get to, say, 10, and Republicans will fight with you to get to 7, but Democrats want to take you to 0, why wouldn’t you fight alongside Republicans to at least get 7? Fight over the remaining 3 later. I’d love to have the conservative/libertarian war after progressivism is vanquished, or at least retreated some. But you won’t get it. You’ll continue to slip toward 0 if you sit on the sidelines focusing your energy on the fact that 7 isn’t 10.

I know I’m not going to win any friends with this, but I don’t care. I have enough friends. What I don’t have, what we don’t have, is enough victories. I’m sick of people celebrating losing like it’s an accomplishment. You want to attack me, knock yourself out. You want to have a discussion, you know where to find me.

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