*sigh* I miss Ron Paul.
I didn’t think he ever had a real chance of winning and his views were impractical given the political realities of the world, but man, libertarians behaved better when he was around. He was a standard bearer that sparked positivity and creativity among libertarians. They created videos and blog posts and went to rallies to support liberty. Now, many (most?) libertarians have just resorted to the same dirty, simplistic “drive by memeing” political discussions that we used to be the target of.
I am sure there is not a libertarian out there who has not heard some version of “oh, you’re a libertarian? You must want businesses to poison their customers” or “oh, you’re an anarchist? Why don’t you move to Somalia?”
These “arguments” are frustrating and grounded in either ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. They are simplistic and act as a way to deflect normal political discourse. They forced libertarians to try and explain libertarian policies on the extreme. Instead of talking about why eliminating licensing for hair dressers or lowering taxes would benefit people we were forced to explain Peter Leeson’s research that Somalia is better off stateless or how the market would punish businesses who harm their customers. These rebuttals are accurate, but they are so far from where we are as a society that the conversation is fruitless.
Now, libertarians seem to be doing the exact same thing, particularly when it comes to Sanders. They share memes that say things like “Share with a Sanders supporter. Socialism leads to Venezuela”. It might feel good to stick it to the socialists but all it really does is signal that you hate socialism and burns bridges with future allies. Instead of explaining why Sanders ideas couldn’t really work or why another candidate is better, these memes just deflect. They ignore the political realities of the world. The US is nothing like Venezuela for a ton of reasons and many countries have policies more socialist than the US and they are thriving. The US also has a strong opposition party in charge of the House of Representatives that would prevent a lot of economic harm. Sanders also isn’t calling for the nationalization of oil or arresting profit seekers.
These memes feel good but they are deflection. They don’t attack anything of substance though, they are just attacking the word “socialism”, which is the same trap some other intellectuals fall into when they attack “capitalism”. They are attacking a word without defining it and not attacking any of the realistic results of the policies introduced. Rarely, if ever, do I see someone who posts an anti-Sanders meme explain which other realistic candidate I should support instead or why I should support a third party candidate instead. It is all anger and deflection. It is a way to see the “enemy” as dumb, ignorant, or evil instead of admitting that humans are complicated and our support of a candidate might be well thought-out and mature (even if it is different than yours).
By making people support Sanders (or, for that matter Trump) into one-dimensional beings, libertarians do themselves a disservice. It prevents real discussions of pragmatic policy and destroys any chances for alliances. Personally, I think libertarians have more in common with our friends on the left than the right. Instead of attacking Sanders we should be supporting him as the least likely to kill people overseas, least likely to throw people in cages for drug use, and least likely to try and roll back the more equal treatment under the law that the LGBT community faces. Or, if you are going to attack Sanders, explain why the other viable candidates (Clinton, Trump, Cruz, or Rubio) are the better choice. Providing solutions and engaging in rational debate is better than attacking and burning bridges.