culture, political theory

Libertarian: A Lost Word

The point of having words is to communicate; we give definitions to terms so we can communicate with each other clearly. If I were to say, “I am going to eat a run,” and I defined ‘run’ as a fruit, I would be doing nothing but causing confusion and conflict. Therefore it seems reasonable that when a term has multiple, often conflicting definitions in the same context that the word does not fulfill its purpose. This is the case with the word libertarian. Whether it be libertarians themselves, or non-libertarians, they seem to use conflicting definitions for it. The term was first used by William Belsham to describe the “doctrine of free will” in 1789. Leftists like to attribute Dejacque as being the first libertarian but he never used the term “libertarian” to describe a philosophy.  H. L. Mencken and Albert Jay Nock were the first to popularize the term in the United States.

“One gratifying aspect of our rise to some prominence is that, for the first time in my memory, we, “our side,” had captured a crucial word from the enemy. Other words, such as “liberal,” had been identified initially with laissez-faire libertarians, but had been captured by left-wing statists, forcing us in the 1940s to call ourselves rather feebly “true” or “classical” liberals.15 “Libertarians,” in contrast, had long been simply a polite word for left-wing anarchists, that is for anti-private property anarchists, either of the communist or syndicalist variety. But now we had taken it over, and more properly from the view of etymology; since we were proponents of individual liberty and therefore of the individual’s right to his property”

Murray Rothbard

The majority of the people who claim to be libertarian are very poorly read on libertarian philosophy and Austrian economics. Many of these same people have a false notion of what libertarianism is and adopt it as a political ideology because they believe it can excuse their hedonistic degeneracy. An example of this is sexual promiscuity or hardcore drug use; a common libertarian argument is that prostitution should be legal as well as all drugs, and many drug users and prostitutes adopt the libertarian position as an excuse for their own pathetic lifestyle.

If you go around and ask libertarians to define libertarians, there is a very high chance they will all give different, and possibly even a few conflicting answers. The most common of these, perhaps, is “live and let live.” Many libertarians hide behind individualism as an excuse to be utterly apathetic to everyone around them; they believe libertarianism is atomism.

“While only individuals exist, individuals do not exist as isolated and hermetically sealed atoms.”

Murray Rothbard

“Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country.” He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.”

Murray Rothbard

Because atomism is the only context in which “live and let live” can function, once there is any social interaction, it starts becoming irrelevant, as there is no more “letting live.” Another standard answer is “socially liberal and fiscally conservative.” Which assumes libertarianism as thick and prescribes social values to it. Both of these are laughable and have been disregarded by the likes of Rothbard and Hoppe.

Another major conflict with using the term is the “left-libertarians” versus “right-libertarians.” In which they have conflicting conceptions of how property works, along with many various other disagreements that stem from that. Besides the previously stated disagreements, there are also other substantial disagreements, where right-libertarians are generally much more “pro-life,” left-libertarians are much more “pro-choice.” There is an abundance of cultural, political, and economic disagreements between the two groups that there is no commonality. 

Considering that the term no longer serves its original purpose and only serves to confuse, give false ideas of what libertarianism is, and cause conflict I propose that we lose the label, and come up with a new one for ourselves.

“‘Libertarian’ may have outlived its usefulness as a term, given its denuded condition and shifting subjective meanings. This has been true for years, but Coronavirus certainly further exposed its limitations. Language changes, usage changes. We may not like it, but precise definitions are increasingly rare– as you would expect in a post-persuasion, bad faith political landscape. “Liberal” is lost forever, indeed, and it is not coming back. I wish there were a simple term to express the plain desire to organize society privately: around civil society, property, markets, and peace, rather than the state. And “propertarian” is too narrow.”

Jeff Deist

My proposed solution to this issue is to come up with a new name for us, whether it be “Hoppean,” “Austrian,” “Separatist,” or something else and call the people who are apparent leftists and claim the title libertarian “Lolbertarians.” In this manner, we avoid the previously described issues, while continuing to not allow for them to use the term “libertarian”

1 thought on “Libertarian: A Lost Word”

  1. A libertarian has signed the NAP and votes for our candidates. Looters try to confuse this to benefit the increase of coercion. But that isn’t working, judging by the libertarian hockey stick in the logistic replacement curve. –libertariantranslator

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