(This essay originally appears in my new book: Strange Attractor: The Discordian Libertarian Writings of Jake Shannon.)
Oftentimes, the biggest enemy of libertarianism isn’t the state; it is libertarians themselves.
I chalk this up to the way neophyte libertarians are introduced to the ideas of individual liberty, usually via either Ayn Rand or Rothbard—for the uninitiated, Ron Paul was strongly influenced by the writings of economist Murray Rothbard. Both were brilliant writers but unfortunately they also had dogmatic rhetorical styles and a cultish sensibility, which many neophyte libertarians then regrettably adopt.
In my decades around liberty types, it seems to me that one of the biggest impediments to the widespread adoption of the NAP (non-aggression principle) is the violation of what I call the NPAP (non-passive aggressive principle), i.e., don’t be an asshole! Remember, the enemy of my enemy may very well be my friend, even *gasp* some socialists. “Voluntary socialism” was once, in point of fact, the label radical free marketers put to their ideas, to the individualist anarchism of free and open competition in a stateless society that they championed.
My point is this: shame and ostracism aren’t necessarily the best method of recruitment. We shouldn’t shame people that are perhaps simply doing the best they can with what they’ve got. We were all non-libertarian at one point, and I am sure it wasn’t shame or ridicule that lit ablaze our own passion for liberty.
Look, since we may find people that diagnose the problem well but then flub the solution by calling for authoritarianism, libertarians should recognize that libertarians themselves live in glass houses too. For example, “Mr. Libertarian” Murray Rothbard himself has flubbed a few times (I know, I know, this is akin to “blasphemy” amongst true believers, but, for example, David Duke as a pro-liberty solution? Are you kidding me!?).
We that are trying to better humankind are human, all too human and hence fallible. As such, please respect the NPAP, and let’s work together, as individuals—as opposed to falling prey to more Machiavellian divide and conquer tactics.