Two bits of good news this morning!  First, the feds have decided to leave Portland.  Yay, but let’s see if it actually happens. If there’s one thing that’s truly universal among the political class, it’s lying.  If they do leave, they sure as hell won’t be missed.

Second, Jo Jorgensen is polling at 5%!  It’s not a lot, but for a Libertarian in July it’s phenomenal, and represents a real, if outside shot of victory.  I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Neil Gaiman: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be _beaten_.”

And in American life there is no dragon more rapacious or violent than the duopoly.


A bit over two months ago, the state claimed another victim.

A bit over two months ago, George Floyd was murdered.  It was not the only such murder in recent memory, but it was the final straw for many, many people.  Shortly thereafter protests erupted all across the country under the banner of black lives matter.  Some of them turned into full on riots for a while, and then settled back down into more peaceful protests.  In Portland, Oregon, on the other hand, the demonstrations never really calmed down, and local police kept escalating over a period of several weeks.  Reports from on the ground detailed near constant use of tear gas and other heavy handed tactics that, in time, affected nearby apartments, not just protestors in the street.

And then the feds got involved.

A few days ago unmarked federal officers, later revealed to be US marshals and DHS agents, showed up in Portland.  Among other things they’ve fired huge amounts of crowd control munitions into protests and straight up kidnapped people (a tactic now being emulated by local police in New York City).  Portland has become a flashpoint for the frustrations of the body politic in many ways, with armadas not just of leftists, but of moms, teachers, veterans, and others showing up in solidarity.

And across social media, libertarians have been trying to figure out exactly what to make of all this. Many libertarians, including members of the dreaded boogaloo movement, have been out in force at many black lives matter protests, although we do seem to be less present in Portland in particular.  Our presidential and vice presidential candidates have both spoken out strongly in support of the protestors, but when they do while most voices are supportive, a substantial minority condemn them. Some prominent libertarians have engaged in a considerable amount of hand wringing about the matter, citing Marxist influence among the protestors and communists being involved more generally, and claiming everything from “the enemy of my enemy is not my friend” to “you were calling for our heads, and now you’re calling for help” to simply saying that the protestors should obey the law and go home.

What, then, should we be doing?  How should we as libertarians feel about this?  I say we should unequivocally support the protestors, and we should be out in force with them.

Don’t get me wrong-I understand at least some of the arguments. The legal argument is completely weak sauce mind you-first off, when did libertarians suddenly start conflating law with morality? And even if we are going to argue the law, the law does not seem to be on the side of the feds-see the relevant Oregon legal code here, the graffiti charges used as a pretext here, and the good ol’ first amendment is here.  I do, on the other hand, understand the frustration with the left.  I’ve seen the same posts you have bashing libertarians, blaming us for all of the world’s ills, arguing for more government control, thinking we’re crazy when we were angry about the bailouts, saying we cost one bastard or another the election, and so on.  I still think Marxism is a terrible ideology, built on a theory of value that doesn’t hold water and used as justification for some of the worst regimes in human history.  And to borrow from the left, the emotional labor of having to explain that taxation is extortion, that war is government sanctioned mass murder, corporate welfare isn’t any better just because your side does it, letting an armed gang run your society is probably not the best of ideas, and both major parties have a terrible track record of nominating awful people as candidates, which is not the fault of third party voters AGAIN gets really old.  And yes, whatever we might agree with commies on, we took a very different thought path to get there and we will wind up arguing about 12 other things in short order. All of this is true and understandable.

But let’s look at the other side of this. Most libertarians, I think, are motivated by outrage over abuses of state power. The abuses that happen to us, and the abuses that happen to others.  The abuses that are inherent in the system. 

We are all victims of the state-its rapaciousness, its incompetence, and its violence. We’ve certainly been going on about it for several decades now, if nothing else. Can we agree though that while they all suck, certain abuses are more serious and more pressing than others? And if so, would it be reasonable to say that murder is, if not the most serious abuse of state power, then at least least in the top two or three? If so, that leaves war and police abuse as the most pressing concerns…and guess what’s been in the news lately.

Libertarians-some of us anyway-seem to have this intellectual blind spot that says that any idea that didn’t come from our camp-even when it agrees with us-is wrong. To hold this not only is intellectually narrow minded for its own sake, but it also severely limits our choice of allies on any given issue, which means that we will continue to be politically irrelevant and ineffective, no matter how right we are. I’m fortunate enough to count many lefties as friends, from garden variety milquetoast Democrats to card carrying Trotskyists. Guess what-all of them have arrived to their worldview through much the same process of research, reflection, caring, and frustration that we did, and, what’s more-the progressives and far lefties share about 80% of our concerns. 10% of our solutions, to be sure, but there’s a lot of common ground and a lot of agreement about what’s messed up. We don’t have to nor should we work with them all the time.  But we should have the intellectual honesty to recognize when someone other than us is on the right side of a particular issue.

Just as an example, watch this documentary about the Black Panthers.  I know, it’s a little long, but it’s a fascinating piece of history with a great soundtrack.  Yes, ideologically they were Marxist. But if you look at their actions, almost everything they did are things libertarians should cheer. They were armed, they took on the police and held them accountable-and shot back when it was necessary. But more importantly they were the private organization that provided charity and important relief to make their community better without a dime of government money or intervention. Their breakfast program fed over 20,000 people at its height.  Whatever they might have been thinking, in their actions they did not confuse society with government, and they actively worked very hard to make society better.  They actually did everything libertarians have been saying people should and will do for as long as I’ve been in the movement. Are we really so blind as to dismiss this as simply the raving of communists?

I’m not calling for across the board bottom unity, because there’s plenty we disagree on and plenty of things to oppose the left on. But what I am saying is that we dismiss the intelligence of people other than us not only at our peril, but at our loss. The more perspectives we have, the more we understand the experience of the people we’re trying to reach with our message, and the more chances we have to get good ideas.

So…about those protests. Libertarians have been raging about cop murder and police abuse for all 20 years that I’ve been in the movement. As this reason article will tell you, we’ve been raging for a lot longer than that. We’ve been warning of the encroachment of the police state, of the death of the right to protest, of a tyrannical government for just as long. We’ve also been talking a good game for decades about the second amendment being about the right of rebellion against one’s own government.

Cop murder is now in the public eye in a huge way. It’s in focus in a way that it wasn’t in 1992 after Rodney King, it never was in the late 90s, despite Peter McWilliams, Amadou Diallo, Waco, Ruby Ridge, or any number of abuses, and it wasn’t even this in focus after Ferguson. It’s triggered a moment of reflection about very uncomfortable truths about our country’s past and present-I hope it’s the moment of reflection, but it’s more likely a moment of reflection. And people are rebelling, rising up to demand something better, and the federal government is doing everything it can short of outright killing people (yet) to beat them back them down into submission.

We weren’t the ones who were able to get these issues in the public eye in a huge way. We were ahead of our time, ignored, and maligned.

So what?

We got to the same idea through a different set of principles and reasoning.

So what?

We may even disagree about what the long term solutions are (personally I think that repealing bad law such as the drug war is much more fundamental to the problems, while the mainstream seem to mostly just be focused on the bad behavior of the enforcers).

But again, so what?

Prioritize the issues. Yes, repealing the income tax would be great, but it’s not going anywhere any time soon. Corporate welfare is still terrible, but it isn’t kidnapping anyone just yet. Gun rights are holding steady at the federal level, and despite notable exceptions like my state of California, the trend is actually generally positive at the state level. Right now what is a threat is police, the enforcement arm of the state.

Right now the commies are on the right side of the most pressing issue of our day. Right now they, along with moms, veterans, teachers, and ordinary people who can’t stand at least one major aspect of state evil anymore are getting their asses kicked for being on the right side of that issue. Right now they look like this.

But they’re also resisting. They’re doing more with bike helmets and cardboard to beat back the feds, stop abuse, and demand better until they are heard than most boog bois can dream of-see here and here, for instance. They are so much of what libertarians have talked about for 40 years and more in theory put into reality.

If we’re going to keep saying all this, it’s time for us to put our money where our mouths are.

They’re out in the streets, standing up to that tyrannical government.

Where are we?

This post is not about why I’m a libertarian.

That’s another post, hopefully a story worth telling, involving history, research, and fanfiction.  No, seriously.

This post is about my frustrations every time someone tells me “your candidate has no chance of winning”, or “why don’t you win some local elections first?” or “a vote for your candidate that you actually believe in (or can at least tolerate) is a vote for the other scumbag, who is worse than my scumbag”.  Or the ever popular “This is the most important election ever.  This is not the time to waste your vote with a third party protest vote, because it’s too important to get scumbag of the moment out of office”.  I hear this a lot, especially in presidential election years.  In fact I’ve heard these lines not just this year, but in every presidential election year since I became politically aware.

Counterpoint one, of course, is the fact that the Libertarian Party has well over 200 elected officials and while there’s definitely still a strain of “everyone wants to be president, no one wants to be dogcatcher” in party activism, we can and do win local offices better than any other third party, and have for a long time.  But that does leave open the question of why contest the presidency and the other federal offices each year.

Let me tell you a bit of my history.  I started to become politically aware in early high school, but didn’t really get interested in things until the late 1990s when I started college.  Discovering libertarianism, and realizing that there was actually a name for a lot of what I was already thinking was a huge moment for me.  As I started to look out at what was happening in the world I was troubled by many things, but especially the drug war (despite being a straightedger myself) and its ensuing mass incarceration and police murder, stupid foreign wars, corporate welfare, and insane taxation.

At the time the most recently murdered by police were Peter McWilliams, Don Scott, and Amadou Diallo.  We were bombing Iraq mostly, and supporting less than wholesome regimes across the planet.  My favorite example of corporate welfare at the time was the Export-Import Bank giving handouts to Campbell’s Soup to buy foreign advertising.  And taxes were what taxes were.

In the next 20 years we’ve had only presidents from the two major parties.  We’ve had one actual independent, one nominal independent, and one Republican turned Libertarian in Congress.  The duopoly, I think it’s safe to say, has completely controlled politics at the federal level.  So…what has that gotten us?

It’s true that there have been some good things from the courts, or at the state and local level.  Obergfell and Heller/McDonald were awesome, although for every Obergfell there’s definitely been a Kelo.  Colorado just ended qualified immunity.  Florida passed major occupational licensing reform.  Many states in the ensuing 20 years have fully or partially legalized marijuana and started to crack the evil (slightly anyway) that is the drug war.  These are things to be celebrated, to be sure.

But I can’t help but feel like these are just shifts around the edges, and that nothing has really changed.  Let’s look at that federal list from 20 years ago, shall we?  Cops are still killing people-Philando Castile, George Floyd, Kelly Thomas, Breonna Taylor jump immediately to mind.  We still incarcerate more people than any other country in the world.  We’re still bombing Iraq, and we’ve added Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen to the package, along with the occasional assassination of an Iranian leader.  And we’re still propping up terrible regimes.  We’ve lived through auto industry bailouts (multiple), bank bailouts, and most recently covid relief that mostly went to the already rich.  And though the rates get tinkered with every few years, our paychecks are still raided constantly by all levels of government, we still rent our cars from the state long after buying them, most of us still pay a tax on every economic transaction we make (now across state lines).  Only the names of the dead and bombed have changed.

And in response to such circumstances, who do the major parties keep giving us?  Architects of war.  Champions of corporate bailouts.  One of the most venally corrupt politicians in the history, who is not the only racist president, but is probably the most racist to hold the office since Nixon or FDR.  The guy who bragged for decades about writing the Patriot Act.  People who believe in nothing save either their own ambitions or their own aggrandizement.  If the major parties had actually succeeded in nominating someone like a Bernie Sanders, or Ron Paul, or going back a little Dennis Kucinich, someone who, love them or hate them you know acts from clear principles and generally lives by them-and who actually cares a bit about the people they represent, I might buy the strategic voting argument, or the lesser of two evils  argument.  But the major parties keep putting up more of the same, and the result is that we keep getting more of the same.

That is why it is so important for Libertarians and Greens and all manner of other voices to keep contesting the highest offices, even though the game is rigged and it’s fantastically expensive.  When I go to cast my vote for Jo Jorgensen this November-and in fairness all of the rest of what I’m about to say can be said of Howie Hawkins as well, I’m voting for someone who stands for something.  Who directly addresses the biggest issues of our day and says “No.  What we’ve done for 20 years or more is wrong, and we need to do something different”.  And who not only has been consistent herself over her lifetime, but is part of a broader movement that has been consistent on these issues for a long time. 

When this question first came up this cycle, my immediate response was “we keep running presidential candidates because the major party candidates are so bad.  Run someone better and we’ll think about voting for them”.  This is true, but as I think about it it’s more than that.  Voting major party in my politically aware lifetime has always been about voting against the other guy.  Voting third party?  That’s a chance to vote for something.  And I’ll always embrace that.

Fellow libertarians, we need to talk.

We-yes, we-have a racism problem, and a civility problem, and the two are related.

No, wait! I can see a lot of you typing furious replies right now, posting things that range from “ALL OF YOUR FREEDOMS, ALL OF THE TIME” to “I don’t care if you install tits and chop off your dick, you’re cool” (that one’s a nigh direct quote from a recent thread), or “This is supposed to be about the individual, right?”. Some of you may be going “well I’m white and my life has been crap”, or possibly even pulling the black on black crime card. Some of you are probably preparing to link me to an Eric July post, or that FEE article. There may be some serious profanity ready to fall out of your keyboard.



Hear me out. Read the whole thing, and then decide if I’m full of crap or not.

If you’re not a libertarian, or just coming over from the right or the left and looking at libertarian ideas and candidates for the first time, you’re welcome to read, but this post really isn’t for you. It’s for the people that have been here for a while. This post is for the people that claim the title libertarian proudly and unequivocally.

I come to you as one of your own, not some SJW infiltrator or Trumpian spy. I’ve been a proud libertarian since the late 1990s. The first presidential vote I ever cast was for Harry Browne. I’ve served in my local LP and volunteered on a few campaigns. I was making 7-800 phone calls per month for a while in support of LP causes. I was lucky enough to go to a barbeque at Jeremy Sapienza’s apartment back in the days (and man, gay anarchists can bbq like no one’s business). I’ve read a decent chunk of Rothbard, Spooner, Bastiat, Jefferson, Justin Raimondo, and Rand, and a smaller amount of von Mises, Hayek, Bob Murphy, and others. I don’t have as much libertarian cred as some, but I have a pretty good knowledge of libertarian theory and positions, and the history and current reality of our movement.

I’ve long said that members of many groups, and fringe political movements especially, are often far happier jerking off in their own echo chambers and being right, or maybe at most screaming empty platitudes and cliches at someone who disagrees, than in actually getting anything done or changing anyone’s mind. Changing peoples’ minds only happens when you actually talk to people outside your own bubble and address their concerns-the substance AND the perception-in language they understand. It does not happen through insults, it does not happen through obscure Rothbard quotes, and it does not happen through simply saying “nuh-uh”.

And, while everyone is absolutely an individual first, when one claims membership in a group, especially in politics, one also assumes responsibility for the baggage of that group. If I say I’m a fan of Grover Cleveland (a member of that fandom, if you will) I’m also accepting his policies on labor and race unless I qualify my enthusiasm. If I claim to be a Brony and someone asks me about cloppers I need to have a good answer, because it’s a fair question.

With all of that said, why do I say that our movement has a racism problem-more specifically a white supremacy problem-and a civility problem? Many reasons. Let’s start with racism. This is a charge that the left still beats us over the head with on a regular basis. So…let’s take a look at both the substance and the reality of this charge.

Right now the United States is in a historical moment where we might finally be reckoning with one of the fundamental realities of our country-for all the good of it, it’s been built in part on stolen labor and stolen land, and the government has continued to abuse the people whose land and labor was stolen in varying degrees up until the present day. The libertarian movement is going through something similar in microcosm, where we have to reckon with what’s in our past, and present. As far as the libertarian movement as a whole, our bonafides on issues of race or just about any other bigotry are very good. In fact we’ve been WAY ahead of the curve-libertarians were screaming about police brutality and mass incarceration back when I first got involved in the late 90s, and we were very lonely voices in the wilderness at that time. And if you want a further history lesson, this Reason article and the responses in this thread are a great start. Libertarians have been on this since before there was a Libertarian Party, and many of our claimed ideological predecessors go back even farther. Hell, even Ayn Rand didn’t like racism, sort of 😛 We have a great many positions that would help everyone if implemented, but would especially benefit minorities-besides the drug war and mass incarceration, there’s occupational licensing, war, farm subsidies that jack up the cost of food, NIMBY zoning laws that make housing more expensive, and open borders that would go a long way to address the atrocities and inconveniences (and everything in between) perpetuated on people that just want to come here to work. These are core issues for us, and essentially always have been.

But…let’s acknowledge the other reality too. First, just because you own a gun and hate the government, it doesn’t make you a libertarian-which some people haven’t figured out yet. A couple of pretty well known libertarian figures went straight off the alt right and/or Trumptard deep end, most notably and sad to me Stephen Molyneux and L. Neil Smith. As to why, I’m not entirely sure, and I wish I knew.  It could be a wrong turn of intellectual arrogance, it could be the cultural tension that exists in the libertarian movement between ex Republicans and ex hippies, or it could just be frustration with everything and hoping the outsider could shake things up…or it could be that they were assholes all along who just happened to write some good stuff for a while before it showed through. There’s also how a few of our leading figures went down parts of that road for a while. Murray Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian himself, wrote some bad stuff at the end of his life. No matter what his legislative record on racial issues was, or what his private and public statements were after, the Ron Paul newsletters happened, and we need to own it.

Then there’s what I’ve seen in threads lately, from the reactions of people (not everyone, but enough) to a trans person asking a legitimate newbie question to the furor over our presidential candidate having the gall to condemn police murder and racism. The nerve, right?! The first part of that is assuming bad faith, which is not something we can afford to do. I think it’s fair to say that almost everyone who claims the libertarian mantle came to it through a combination of study, research, frustration, and the genuine belief that libertarian solutions to problems would make our country and world better. But it shouldn’t be such a stretch to think that other people of good intellect and good conscience could come to other conclusions. We celebrate the individual, right? The individual that is free to choose? I find Marxism to be just as dumb and just as founded on weak theoretical underpinnings as most of you, but a lot of dear friends, having studied the state of the world, history, and the same available data as I have have come to conclusions that lead them to think one of the left wing ideologies explains the world better. I disagree with them, but it would be very stupid of me to assume that they aren’t motivated by the same desire to improve their own lives and the lives of others. These are desires worthy of respect. And, more importantly, we agree on a good number of issues. We can fight about what we disagree on, sure, but that shouldn’t blind us to what we agree on, and working together to fix what needs to be changed in the world. We also shouldn’t be so stupid as to be blind to wisdom just because it comes from a source that wasn’t published by Lew Rockwell.

Which brings me to the civility problem, and a major intellectual blindspot for a lot of libertarians that I wasn’t really aware of until I saw it in action over the last few weeks. For those of you that aren’t aware, there’s an idea that’s been floating in left wing circles for a long time called intersectionality. I know, I know, but again, hear me out, and stay with me to the end. This is all going to tie together. As I understand it, the basic idea of intersectional theory is that we all exist in different interlocking systems of oppression and privilege, so someone who is black and male and straight gets racism but benefits from sexism and homophobia, whereas a white gay woman deals with a different set of issues, and so on. Now…taken to its extreme, or used as the only way of seeing the world, it quickly gets nihilistic, and more importantly devalues the individual and the individual experience. But, used judiciously, it is one beginning of wisdom, even though it is not its end. And, for libertarians that drone on and on about the value of voluntary associations and how society is not government, it recognizes one essential truth: (individual) humans are part of groups.

I am about as radical an individualist as I’ve met. I believe in the power of the human being singular. I believe that the first time you say “I am” and mean it-the first time you assert your individuality in the face of a collective-is perhaps the most important decision you can make in your life. But once you say “I am”, what comes next? We are individuals first, but we are also part of groups second, some of which we get to choose and some of which we don’t. And I have seen this basic truth go over so many peoples’ heads in the last few days. Yes, we are individuals and should be treated as such, but that is not reality for a lot of people. Yes, racism is stupid, evil collectivism-but it exists. And no, no community is monolithic, and there are always outliers, but in most of them you can usually draw trend lines, especially about what the big concerns are. This is what the left sees that a lot of us don’t. The left also usually has the sense to actually ask about peoples’ experiences (to a certain extent) rather than just assume that a blanket platitude will take care of everything. The groups that we are part of are huge parts of our identity and often have different concerns and issues than other groups. I’m me first. But I’m also a a teacher, a musician, a member of a couple of fandoms, half Hispanic, bisexual, a guy, and a number of other things of varying importance. That gives me a different set of concerns than Jolene Generic first, but also all the groups that they’re a part of.

To elaborate on this, it seems like so many in our movement have never even met a black person, or a trans person, or someone else that isn’t exactly like them. And if you did, you didn’t talk much about what they’d lived through, or if they’d ever gotten crap for what they were rather than who they were. Watching libertarians talk it seems like we’re not aware that not everyone has read Rothbard yet, not everyone is full ancap, not everyone lived the same life as you, and perhaps most importantly people exist in the real world, not as theoretical abstractions.

This hopefully leads to the next point that again, a lot of us have completely missed. I fully grant that we are all victims of the state. But some people get it a lot worse than others, often because they are part of involuntary groups. Black people are several times more likely to be murdered by cops. Trans people are much more likely to commit suicide. Iraqis are currently feeling the negative effects of awful American policy more than people in California. And as such people are going to have different immediate concerns and different questions, all of which are going to necessitate different answers. Not ideologically contradictory answers, but different specific details that address the real concerns of the person asking the question. This should not be a difficult concept for a group of people that usually likes to think of themselves as pretty damned smart, and who have been hammering that the drug war and police overreach disproportionately impact minorities for decades now. This is our chance to put our money where out mouths are.

What does this mean for us? It means that if we want to effect the changes we would like to see in the world, if we would like to win new voters for our candidates this year and to our camp permanently, and if we want to live up to the principles that we espouse, we need to change some things. We need to be welcoming, and we need to recognize that our individual experience is not the same as someone else’s individual experience. We need to ask questions respectfully when we’re faced with someone whose life experience is outside of our own. We need to give specific answers to questions asked of us, not generic platitudes or instant attacks. We need to recognize good faith from opposing viewpoints. We need to have answers for the objections. And we need to own and call out the bad behavior among our own long before someone else does it for us, just as much as we should celebrate the good. That absolutely includes racism and bigotry. Yes, we will defend your right to say stupid, repugnant stuff, but it doesn’t mean that we have to or should defend stupid, repugnant stuff. Right now, free speech is under much less assault than minorities. To not recognize this, and to let it pass without comment-or even worse, act like angry children when someone calls out what’s wrong in the world-is how we will lose voters, harm people, and not live up to the proud ideals of our tradition.

I implore you. Be better.

 I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time.


Speaking out in a public forum that is.  I’ve been an activist on and off for 20 years for various libertarian causes, and a keyboard warrior when I wasn’t actually out in the streets.  I stopped doing activism for a while because I had to finish school, because I was disillusioned with party activism, and because I thought that the best way to change the world was to encourage the young to think for themselves, and become their own people.  I still hold to that as my primary mission, but the the abuses of state power that I continue to see every day on my feeds, along with the extra time allowed by the Covid lockdowns, has led me to put my words out into the world.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to change anything.  I don’t know if this project will last much beyond the start of the school year.  But for now I have a voice, and I will use it.