Recently, on his radio program at theblaze.com, conservative icon and media mogul Glenn Beck pleaded with libertarians to welcome and embrace newcomers into the movement. This was in response to comments made by Students for Liberty co-founder Alexander McCobin at this year’s International Students for Liberty Conference earlier this month. Tweet it: Tweet
In his opening remarks,McCobin stated:
“…if Glenn wants to call himself a libertarian, I am happy to accept him as one…on the condition…that he comes here to our community and proclaim ‘mea culpa’ for his past defenses of social and neo-conservatism…” (Emphasis original)
McCobin is right to call into question the sincerity of an individual who, for many years, advocated for policies contrary to libertarian ideals and in violation of the U.S. Constitution. He is wrong, however, in suggesting “the liberty movement” should only be associated with those who pass a purity litmus test and agree with every plank of the libertarian creed.
In his response, Beck admitted to having been wrong on certain issues in the past, mentioning his former support for the Patriot Act, provided it came with sunset provisions, saying, “Man,what a fool I was.”
The segment ended with Beck stressing his desire for libertarians to reach out to those who could become potential allies and unite on issues where they agree:
“…libertarians I’m begging you please, see the opportunity you have with about thirty percent of this nation; maybe sixty percent of this nation. They will come your way. They live in that space until you go and say, ‘There’s no other way but this way!’ No one wants to hear that. You don’t want to hear that from the people in Washington in the Republican or Democratic Party. Don’t give us another choice where it is all or nothing…” Tweet quote: Tweet
Those involved in the liberty movement should not find this startling considering the man most responsible for popularizing libertarian thought in recent years, former congressman Ron Paul, took this very same approach.
In fact, had Dr. Paul insisted that his presidential campaigns and the movement they spawned only be associated with purist libertarians, there would likely be no movement at all. In one of the 2008 Republican debates, Paul summarized his vision for the movement:
“The freedom message brings us together, it doesn’t divide us.” Share quote: Tweet
What both Paul and Beck are stressing is that it isn’t necessary for libertarians or conservatives to compromise their beliefs in order for the movement to grow and be successful. Indeed, the strength of this “liberty movement” is that it’s comprised of various factions, coming together to form coalitions where they agree so long as it’s in an effort to promote individual freedom and constitutional government.
As a movement it’s imperative we ask ourselves a serious question: Are we more interested in maintaining a personal sense of moral superiority to those who don’t always agree with us or is our primary goal to substantively change policy and turn our ideals into tangible reality?
Principle is important. It’s absolutely essential. However, what use is principle if it cannot be applied in a practical manner?
Some within the libertarian community have been less than satisfied with Senator Rand Paul’s more pragmatic approach to policy, despite its effectiveness in bringing libertarian ideas into the mainstream. Senator Paul may utilize a different strategy than his father, but how many libertarians would not jump at the chance to have a dozen or more Rand Pauls in the Senate?
The same could be said for former Senator Jim DeMint (now president of The Heritage Foundation) and North Carolina Representative Walter Jones, both of whom have stressed their desire to see the Republican Party become more libertarian, despite neither of them being libertarians themselves.
I don’t fault anyone for being suspect of pundits like Glenn Beck who claim to have had a change of heart. No one should be blindly trusted, not even Ron or Rand Paul.
By refusing to bring allies into the fold, however, we not only do ourselves a disservice by weakening our movement, but we actually betray the very essence of our principles. Share article: Tweet
Libertarianism, if anything, is a political philosophy rooted in humility. We tend to reject any “pretense of knowledge” and passionately defend the primacy of the individual. We believe in the marketplace of ideas, and yet somehow seem to abandon such concepts when it comes to engaging in politics. Insisting on a dogmatic, one-size-fits-all approach is not only counterproductive but runs counter to our convictions. Tweet it: Tweet
The purpose of the libertarian movement should be to change hearts and minds toward liberty. This inevitably involves forming alliances with those who agree with us on certain issues whether it be economic liberty, personal freedom, or foreign policy, even if they don’t accept libertarianism wholesale.
Building a movement that seeks to meet with individuals where we can be united poses the greatest threat to the authoritarians in both parties.
A coalition of conservatives, libertarians, independents, and even disenfranchised leftists who seek to promote individual liberty is the establishment’s greatest fear because it would illustrate that, despite our differences, we are more than capable of coming together and managing our own lives without the dictates of the state. What could be more libertarian than that?
UPDATE: Alexander McCobin wrote an open letter in response to Beck’s radio segment.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
I think that Beck might just have changed. Mind you I wasn't fooled by Howard Stern or Bob Barr--but I think Beck has been influenced. I voted for neocons for 3 presidential election cycles, so I understand not getting it right away. It didn't occur to me until I stumbled upon a radio interview of Andre Moreau. Still, Ron Paul has done more for the freedom movement in the last 8 years than the Libertarian Party has been able to do in the last 40 years. It doesn't surprise me that Beck is only now coming to terms with the failures of the state and the neocons.
If Glen Beck wants to join the Libetarian Party, that's fine. If he wants to run to the head of the parade and act like we are following him, we just went through that ordeal with Wayne Allen Root.
Glenn brings some serious assets and some serious baggage. The baggage includes not only his history of regurgitating neocon propaganda, but his tendency to thread together some seriously paranoid arguments as if they made perfect sense to him.
I also fear what founder David Nolan feared, that we will become so preoccupied with fame and political success that we will lose our focus on the message.
"Libertarianism, if anything, is a political philosophy rooted in humility. We tend to reject any “pretense of knowledge” and passionately defend the primacy of the individual."
Which they know to defend because...blank out
I would give a senate full of libertarians for one Objectivist
Why does maintaining a personal sense of morality and principle automatically demonstrate a "sense of superiority"? My guiding philosophy bears no regard to that of others and neither does my view of my personal worth. I don’t remember Rand writing about the value of an individual coming from the lack of value found in his contemporaries.
When did Libertarians get this strange sense of collectivism; this idea that we have to band together to advance a political agenda? Did we miss the point that we're not advocating political action but the natural dissolution of it? I don't want a ride at the helm of the killing machine, and your final sentence makes no sense. Why do we need to come together to manage our lives w/out the dictates of the state.
If Beck wants to be a Libertarian, he should stop begging people to call him one. He should shut up, live the ideals and stop looking to others for his political self-affirmation.
You can count me as one of those suspicious of Beck. He's been down this road before of appealing to libertarians only to revert back. Still, I wouldn't advocate shunning him. He has a platform and so you talk into any microphone you can.
Agreed. It's understandable to be suspect of him considering what he's said and done over the years regarding our ideas, Dr. Ron Paul and others. However he's made a concerted effort to reach out to us as of late. Recently he had columnist Jack Hunter, Jacob Hornberger of Future of Freedom Foundation and Zak Slayback of Students for Liberty on his show to discuss our movement and where we can come together. He could have had on any beltway guy speaking about our ideas from the outside but he reached out to 3 individuals who work at the heart of our movement. And his point is still well taken, it isn't necessary for us to "convert" people to libertarian ideology. I'm not interested in promoting or being part of a cult. I'm interested in promoting ideas that challenge the status quo in DC and maximize freedom. We should welcome anyone who wants to work with us on issues that actually promote liberty regardless of what label they ascribe to or even if they reject our views on other issues.
I don't think Beck is looking to join the LP or lead anything. The liberty movement is far, far bigger than the LP, (thank goodness). I think he just wants to bring people together on issues where they agree that promote liberty and constitutional government in an effort to drive out the statists in both parties.
First of all, I'm not an Ojectivist-not by a long shot. Also, Rand hated libertarians. My point was not that having principles makes someone think they're superior. If you'll look back, I said principle is essential. But believing one is too good to work together with others to actually change policy is a false sense of superiority. And if you're not looking to actually change policy and stop the state from taking our wealth and liberties, then I'm not sure why you consider yourself part of the movement. Also, a very common mistake made by my fellow libertarians: don't confuse acting as a collective with collectivism. Completely different things. And my final sentence makes perfect sense: The entire point of the libertarian message is one of community, that society is self-organizing-not that we're going to all live on individual islands but as Mises argued, that society itself was created from the social cooperation of the open marketplace by individuals seeking their self-interest, it inevitably lead to the division of labor and social interaction. So working together on a voluntary basis to achieve goals is in no way is contrary to libertarianism: that's the very essence of libertarianism. Nor is anyone in this movement is looking to ride at the helm of the killing machine, but you simply ignoring politics doesn't make it vanish. It doesn't stop the killing, the plunder, the fraud, the violations of civil liberties, the poverty. Simply wishing it away or engaging in high brown philosophical theory results in absolutely nothing tangible. Theory, principle and philosophy are necessary but they've only value to the extent that they can be practically applied. There is no "natural dissolution" of political action. The state isn't going anywhere in our lifetime, so we can sit back and beat our chests with pride at how pure we are while griping about all the injustices we see; or we can get involved in the system, and actually get people elected who will work to oppose the Obamas, Bushes, Boehners, Lindsey Grahams, McCains, Pelosis, etc.
However, the point Beck was making and what the piece was aiming for is that solely being concerned with one's philosophical purity achieves no tangible results and as I stated we need to ask ourselves a question: Is our goal to inflate our egos and just talk condescendingly about how enlightened and pure we are against the "statists", or is our goal not about promoting ourselves at all but about spreading ideas and making them a reality?
Glenn is a plagiarist and a quick sell out.
As if we haven't been open to newbies...~! Part of why the libertarian movement looks so small, is because of how truly 'big tent' style we have operated.
You can criticize Beck for his Neo Conservatism - ie: expansionism.
YOu can criticize classical liberal conservatives, because the constitution has certainly failed to protect our property rights, and democracy is the road to communal totalitarianism.
But you cannot criticize social conservatives. They're right. We're wrong. The nuclear family is a necessary component of the high trust society. The market can exist as an addition to the aristocratic norms, but it cannot exist independently of those norms. For this reason, Conservatives have a lock on morality, because they have a lock on the family, and on all contributions to the commons that create the hight trust society that makes libertarian exchange ethics possible. No other civilization has created individualism and high trust. None. Aristocracy did that. And conservatives are aristocrats. They think in terms of the morals necessary to hold land, and by holding land, hold institutions, and by holding institutions, create a strong population that can compete as a minority in a hostile world.
We are latecomers to Aristocracy. We have abandoned those land holding ethics and morals. We do not understand them. We think that private property can exist with out the aristocratic land holding ethics that conservatives fight for with their very lives. And we're wrong.
The fact that conservatives speak in allegorical and metaphorical language is frustrating for us. But the source of Conservatism is aristocratic manorialism. And teh source of libertarianism is merely the necessary change in ethics as we convert from a landed to a exchange economy. They are the ancient version of us. And they're right about a lot of things. In particular, they are right about ethics. And Rothbard is wrong.
Rothbard's ghetto ethics will result in the loss of the high trust society. In addition to voluntary exchange, we must also forbid externalities, and require symmetry of knowledge that is demonstrated by warranty. This is the aristocratic ethic of the high trust society. Rather than the Ghetto ethic of the low trust society - a society which can only exist, like Crusoe's island, when the walls of aristocracy surround it like the depths of the ocean surround Rothbard's Crusoe's island.
Conservatives are right. We are wrong.
I don't think Beck is asking anyone to call him libertarian in fact that's his point and the point of this piece: I don't care if someone is libertarian, a leftist, conservative, independent, whatever. If I can find common ground on an issue that does promote liberty and restoring constitutional government-I'll work with to that end. I can't tell you the number of friends I have who are active in the movement who are former neocons or leftists. They were first attracted to Ron Paul or some other figure on an issue they found common ground while still not being a full-fledged libertarian but over time they came our way and work hard in the movement. That's what Beck is talking about: build coalitions, don't attack people for their wrong positions, reason with them and if they're willing to work with us on an issue that is in line with our principles, then do it while trying to rationally and respectfully use that issue as a means of getting them to come around on the rest of our principles. It's one thing to have principles, and they're essential; it's quite another to claim to have principles that are impractical just so we can beat our chests and inflate our own egos of how "pure" we are. Politics doesn't work that way and whether we like it or not, the state isn't going anywhere anytime soon-we can be content with simply talking about how pure we are and griping about the system and stay on the sidelines, or we can get in the system and use it against itself and change hearts and minds.
I'm suspect but hopeful. His willingness to essentially renounce everything he's stood for in terms of major policies the last several years in recent weeks and his pleading with libertarians to build coalitions is encouraging. Even more so, today Jack Hunter, Jacob Hornberger and Zak Slayback of Students for Liberty were invited on for a full hour of his internet tv broadcast to discuss this very thing. If he just wanted to pandor, he could have brought on Beltway libertarian types who generalize and aren't really part of our movement; but he brought on 3 people who are at the heart of the movement and gave them his major platform to sound off. I'm willing to see where this goes because if he keeps listening to Penn Jillette and Judge Nap, and keeps encouraging people to look to Rand Paul and Mike Lee, I say we take that platform for all its worth.
Using the platform is fine. Maybe being independent and no longer on Fox will help him, but I'd just caution about putting too much hope in Beck.
Agreed. I don't mean to convey that I'm jumping on Beck's bandwagon. I really just wanted to emphasize to the movement that we need to be more humble and welcoming and tactful in how we present our ideas.