Two Sides of the Same Stick

Libertarianism has a media problem. Few reporters and pundits understand how to fit us into the paradigm they cling to, that of the false left/right spectrum in political philosophy. They look “left” and see Democrats, look “right” and see Republicans, and therefore wrongly believe that anybody who doesn’t fit into these categories must be fringe extremists outside of the popular mainstream.

Because most of the populace still forms their opinions largely due to what they’re fed by these information gatekeepers, this mentality is a pervasive one. Many people simply don’t know what to make of us.

A recent example of this very thing was published yesterday by the Daily Herald, where blogger Heidi Toth promoted the idea of becoming a Democrat in Utah to create a more “healthy” political environment. Because, of course, if you’re not a Republican you must be a Democrat, right? In the minds of many, these are our two options, and these options offer a wide contrast to accommodate varying viewpoints.

While these two prevalent parties clearly have their differences, their underlying commonalities suggest that they are not nearly as different as their adherents believe. That foundation which both parties share is one of interventionism—the idea that the government can and should regulate the affairs of individuals based on the whims of the popular majority.

The contrast between Republicans and Democrats, or conservatives and liberals, boils down to application alone—determining where and how the government should intervene. Neither side disagrees with the idea of interventionism itself.

This is why libertarianism rightly views both of these parties or ideologies as two sides of the same stick. Does it really matter whether somebody kicks you with his right foot as opposed to his left?

The real contrast in the competing political philosophies here in Utah is not found between conservatism and liberalism, but between interventionism and individual liberty. As Ludwig von Mises once observed, “Full government control of all activities of the individual is virtually the goal of both national parties.” While these intentions are masked in flowery rhetoric and implemented in many cases with popular support, the goal ultimately promoted by both parties requires an institutional violation of one’s life, liberty and property.

This is the stacked deck against which Libertas Institute is working—one in which many people falsely believe they are free, yet espouse a political philosophy which in Orwellian fashion promotes the very opposite. “None are more hopelessly enslaved” than these, said Goethe. Like Morpheus in the Matrix, we work to help these people take notice of the confined system in which they’ve been living, and realize that freedom lies in rejecting the system altogether.

Interventionism is inherently at odds with individual liberty; mandating a business owner to only operate on certain days, throwing a person in a cage for consuming a naturally-grown plant, requiring thousands of hours of school for a woman to braid the hair of consenting customers, and so many more examples such as these are all supported by either or both of the two major political parties. Thus, these parties and their underlying political philosophies, while in some cases agreeing with what individual liberty requires, routinely oppose it through their adherence to interventionism.

Peace, productivity, and a healthy, vibrant society—these and other important goals which we share in common with those of any political philosophy—must only be realized through persuasion and voluntary cooperation between consenting individuals. Unjustly imposing something upon another person, even if supported by a majority vote, cheapens these goals; contrary to popular belief, the ends do not justify the means. Only a system that rigidly respects individual liberty can allow us to realize these goals morally, legitimately, and effectively.