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Libertarians Can Disagree with Ron Paul; Try Not to Faint

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
The one mistake people can make when considering the libertarian movement is that all libertarians are alike. When some people think of libertarians, they think of college students who kneel at the alter of Ron Paul. This is a mistake. Ron Paul is considered by many to be the godfather of the liberty movement, but not everyone who self-identifies as a libertarian, or is labeled as such, will agree with Paul 100 percent of the time. Not all libertarians are like the former Texas congressman. Not all libertarians are like former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Not all libertarians are like Students for Liberty president Alexander McCobin.

So, it shouldn't be treated as such a surprise when someone like McCobin disagrees with Paul.

After all, the liberty movement (or the libertarian movement) is not founded on a singular ideology. Most people who either self-identify under the contemporary identity of a libertarian or are labeled as a libertarian typically are fiscally conservative, but take a more liberal stance on social issues -- because of course that is how we have to break it down. Throw foreign policy in there and I guarantee not even members of the same local Libertarian Party will agree on every issue or even any issue.

Ukraine, for example, is exactly the type of issue that members of the liberty movement will not see eye-to-eye on.

"Former Congressman Ron Paul, whose views are interpreted by many as wholly representative of the libertarian movement, gets it wrong when he speaks of Crimea’s right to secede," McCobin wrote in an op-ed. I know, a libertarian said Ron Paul is wrong; try to stay calm.

Make no mistake about it, Crimea was annexed by Russian military force at gunpoint and its supposedly democratic “referendum” was a farce. Besides a suspiciously high voter turnout without legitimate international observers, the referendum gave Crimeans only two choices — join Russia now or later.   It’s much too simplistic to solely condemn the United States for any kind of geopolitical instability in the world. Non-interventionists who sympathize with Russia by condoning Crimea’s secession and blaming the West for the Ukrainian crisis fail to see the larger picture. Putin’s government is one of the least free in the world and is clearly the aggressor in Crimea, as it was even beforehand with its support of the Yanukovych regime that shot and tortured its own citizens on the streets of Kyiv.

So, who gets to speak for the liberty movement, McCobin or Paul? The short answer: neither. No single individual can lay claim to an absolute libertarian platform.

If one were to examine individual issues without clumping them together, it would become apparent to them that within the liberty movement is a vast ideological spectrum because it is just that: a movement, not an ideology. It is a movement that holds the preservation of individual liberty as the highest political priority. This can include a variety of different approaches.

In fact, many who consider themselves a part of this movement are independent-minded. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats, some are members of a third party -- not even all are a member of the Libertarian Party, and some reject party affiliation and political labels altogether.

Libertarians often disagree on issues which is one reason why a collective effort to get libertarian candidates elected is not an easy task. Republicans and Democrats can rely on generic talking points to rally their base, but members of the liberty movement are not so easily swayed. Not every person who identifies with this movement voted for Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential election even though he was the libertarian candidate or Ron Paul in previous presidential elections.

It would be a mistake to think that all libertarians have to conform to the platform of a single individual, just like it would be a mistake for any single individual to lay claim to an absolute libertarian platform.

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