|Orion, Duncan, Rodney, Luke,|
I've been thinking about the word 'libertarianism' a lot lately, as a result of the panel discussion that Linz, Robert Bidinotto, David Kelley, and Eric Mack had at the TOC conference in Vancouver last month, and also because of the dustup (re: Peikoff/Kelley) that is occurring on Diana's Hsieh's blog now.
I've never been a member of the LP or described myself as a 'libertarian', but I did have some sympathy for the party based on its better members. Today, though, the party has become an eternal embarrassment to the point that I now find myself less repelled by the Republican Party than by the LP.
Peter Schwartz's piece was a hatchet job with little objectivity or fairness (and I urge you to read the original pamphlet to see what I mean, if you can find it, as it was longer and harsher than the edited version that made it into VOR.) But now the bad elements that Schwartz identified in American libertarianism ( - he ignorantly or maliciously failed to distinguish the Libertarian Party from the libertarian cultural movement, many of whose intellectual leaders were repugned by the party and vocally denounced it at the time - ) have grown in influence and visibility.
The 9/11 atrocities represented a turning point, at least for American libertarianism, in that it revealed what too many libertarians on these shores were, or had become. After flattering themselves as Davids to Uncle Sam's Goliath for so long, their mental control levers had become permanently rusted into the 'hate US' position. With the fall of the Twin Towers, this became transmogrified into the 'hate America' position, if it was not already. Many were now seen to be what statists, conventional religionists, and Schwartz had always claimed that they were: nasty, brutish, jeering anti-social little misfits, defending "individual rights" and "peace" by being quicker and more vitriolic in denouncing our government for writing them a speeding ticket than in denouncing Saddam for a genocide or a surprise military invasion. Too many libertarians are now what Linz calls 'Saddamites' and what I call members of the PMP Brigade. My position on libertarianism has become similar to that of my good friend Paul Hsieh in his recent comments on his wife's site. (http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2004/08/documents-sanction-and-confusion.html)
But this thread is about language, and Linz raised a linguistic issue with respect to libertarianism at the TOC panel discussion: libertarianism is a political movement dedicated to liberty, and liberty in fact requires reason to define and sustain it. So it is up to us, the rational defenders of liberty, to reclaim the word 'libertarianism' from the subjectivist nincompoops who have hijacked it. And in any event libertarianism is an international movement which in New Zealand has not been hijacked as it has been in the US. (That's the gist of his point, my apologies for not being able to word it as he did.)
If he is correct, then Schwartz and others are wrong to attack the word 'libertarian', however right they are to attack certain creatures who currently drape themselves in its banner. This would be analogous to Rand (correctly) reclaiming the true meanings of 'selfish' and 'ego' from the layers of misrepresentation spattered on them by generations of altruist propagandists.