This week, I’ve devoted several posts to libertarians shilling for Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning. But are these examples representative of the libertarian movement as a whole? Let’s take a look around the blogosphere:
- Ron Paul defends Assange as a "truth revealer." This alone is extremely damning to libertarianism, because of Paul’s level of fame and influence within the movement.
- Judge Andrew Napolitano defends Assange, and Young Americans for Liberty honors him for it. YAL is a prominent libertarian student activist group. YAL has also hailed Assange as a hero here, here, and here.
- Libertarianism’s most prominent think tank, the CATO Institute, has published defenses of these leaks, though, in their defense, CATO also publishes condemnations of Assange, as well.
- Similarly, the respected Reason Magazine runs articles calling Assange neither hero nor villain and criticizing those who say Assange has blood on his hands, but they also run more critical analysis of Assange, as well.
- Paleo-libertarian crank Lew Rockwell, unsurprisingly, wants to give Assange the Nobel Peace Prize.
- In the blogosphere, it’s hard to swing a dead cat without hitting a libertarian WikiLeaks fan. They love him at DailyPaul.com. “The Classic Liberal” lauds as "prophetic" Rockwell’s claim that Assange is “courageous iconoclast (update: see below), brilliant, angry, driven, and effective.” The Daily Libertarian defends him. “Libertarian Peacenik” Thomas Sipos is on his side. So does Mad Libertarian Guy. And militant libertarian. And the Liberty Forest guys. As well as the Libertarian Standard.
So while, there are some voices of reason and conscience within the libertarian movement, there are lots of bad apples. I sympathize with those good-faith believers in individual liberty and limited government who’d genuinely like to see their house get back in order; it’s going to be a tough, messy battle, But it’s a battle they’ve got to undertake if libertarianism as a whole is going to deserve respect. The health & respectability of any movement can be judged by the degree to which it self-polices wrongdoing by its members. Chris Wysocki captures my thoughts perfectly:
Of course it's all predicated on their belief that the public has a "right" to know everything which the government says or does; coupled with the assertion that no statement is exempt from the free speech protections embodied in the First Amendment. It's about "trust", as in the libertarians have absolutely no trust in the elected government.
Welcome to the promise of a world governed by a cross between the pre-imperial Roman Senate and a typical New England town meeting. It's one step above organized chaos, predicated on the notion that everyone is equally capable of governing himself.
And here I thought that only progressives dreamed of utopia […]
One could say the same about my libertarian interlocutors. They seek to destroy authority, and replace it with, well exactly what I'm not sure. It's some sort of idealized leave-me-the-hell-alone universe where a subset of the Articles of Confederation are in effect and a never-ending supply of Founding Fathers (or a clone army comprised of Murray Rothbards and Friedrich Hayeks) stands at the ready to prevent deviation from The Path.
That in a nutshell is my beef with strong-form libertarianism. I believe in the Constitution, so much so that I an willing to work within its framework to effect the changes we so desparately need. The power of the ballot box should not be underestimated. In addition America has a long and noble history of peaceful protest, the massing of public opinion in a focused attempt to make our voices heard. We are America, hear us roar!
UPDATE: The Classic Liberal responds in the comments:
The "prophetic" words were those of Russell Kirk, the undisputed godfather of the conservative movement who said "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace comes to pass in an era of Righteousness -- that is, national or ideological self-righteousness in which the public is persuaded that ‘God is on our side,' and that those who disagree should be brought here before the bar as war criminals."
The quote that followed about Assange was not written by Lew Rockwell, but by retired USAF lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski.
I apologize for my mistake.