Remso Martinez Interviews the Libertarian Fool
The following is an interview conducted by Remso Martinez. It has been a pleasure for me getting to know Remso and his work over the past few months. He is an activist, conservatarian, and all around rabble-rouser. Be sure to check out his blog rwmartinez.liberty.me
I recently got a chance to have a chat with libertarian writer Joey Clark about the future of the potential “Conservatarian” fusionist coalition between libertarians and conservatives. Joey and I also discussed the Libertarian Party and infighting between classical liberals and anarchists.
Remso: The Liberty movement is fractured and tipping its breaking point. What do you think is more far gone, libertarians in the GOP gaining steam again or the Libertarian Party taking off?
Joey: I would first like to unpack the notion that the Liberty movement is “tipping its breaking point.”
I certainly agree the movement is fractured, but was it ever really a cohesive whole in the first place? Libertarians seem to have always been fragmented throughout modern American political history, so I tend to think this movement “crack up” is actually a sign of progress, a sign of maturity. The fact that we are even speaking in terms of a “Liberty movement” and worrying about its future is a good sign. And I hope our movement maintains a perpetual sense of anxiety about the future.
Keep in mind, electoral success can often be a death blow to political movements, and I do not wish for the Liberty movement to die on the vine while in political office. Even if success does eventually come at the ballot box (and I certainly hope it does,) libertarians should not see such tactical political victories as ultimately winning the war of ideas. Our strategic aim must be beyond fleeting political power. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” was a quote thrown around by abolitionists during the early years of the Old Republic, but I especially like Aldous Huxley’s variation on the saying, “Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty; eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.” To be a liberty lover should be more than just a political pose; it should be a statement of basic human decency. And we should remember going forward: politics and decency do not often mix.
That said, I find the Libertarian party taking off to be more far gone than libertarians working within the GOP. For some reason, American politics is not friendly to third parties. Even when third parties start to find success, they are usually co-opted by the major parties. Unless there is a major calamity that shakes the two party system to its core, I say libertarians should work within the GOP and the Democratic party, achieving victories where we can.
Remso: Conservatives and libertarians are what brought about the Tea Party wave originally, do you still think that spirit of partnership is there?
Joey: In certain circles, yes, that spirit is still there. However, because the Tea Party was largely an electoral movement, it has been both co-opted and beaten back by the GOP at this point. To re-ignited the original fervor of the Tea Party, all we must do is continue to share our common ideas and angst while waiting for events to go our way. The current trajectory of the federal government is unsustainable, and when the day of reckoning hits, I expect to see a movement that makes the original Tea Party look like small potatoes: that is, if we have prepared our hearts and minds.
Remso: Do you think Anarchists have tarnished the Libertarian label?
Joey: No, I do not. Anarcho-capitalism or market anarchism is a natural outgrowth of classical liberal thought. I tend to think such a society, if ever brought into practice, would become synonymous with civilization itself. Of course, I do not think there is a way to simply legislate an anarchic society into existence; it must be built out over time. I suppose certain “anarchists” within the liberty movement have tarnished the brand, but they are mostly no-names, and their besmirchment of the brand probably has more to do with lacking basic “human decency” than any lacking element to their political philosophy. As for libertarian anarchists who do come to mind, I think the liberty movement owes them a debt in a way. Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty still sits proudly on my bookshelf, as do many of his other works. My good friend and anarchist, Jeffrey Tucker, has been a blessing for my education in the ideas of liberty. Ron Paul himself was greatly inspired by libertarian anarchists. The list could go on and on, but my point is the philosophy behind libertarian anarchism is a boon for the Liberty movement, not a pockmark.
Remso: What are the best and worst ways libertarianism has been marketed to the masses?
Joey: At its best, I must give credit to the classical liberals of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They were men and women well-versed in the science, art, philosophy, and politics of their day. They fixed their minds on all aspects of life and, in each case, delivered critiques showing how liberty was the political principle that could most foster peace and prosperity. Most importantly their marketing efforts were optimistic, bold, and meant to empower the common man. Indeed, they pitted the common man against the elites, against the ancien régime, but rather than focusing on just this class struggle, they consistently emphasized their goal was improvement and greater liberty for the individual.Theirs was a comprehensive project of progress and peace for all society.
At its worst, I must refer to certain pockets of the liberty movement some have called (and I hate to use the term but know no other way to put it) “brutalist.” Those people who use the principle of liberty to only tear down and never lift up. Those who emphasize that liberty allows for exclusion and various forms of bigotry. Indeed, liberty does allow for peaceful people to exclude and believe in whatever nonsense they wish, but this fact is hardly a compelling reason for most people to adopt liberty. I’d rather we appeal to people’s love for others and sense of hope rather than their petty prejudices.
Remso: What do you think of the term “Conservatarian”?
Joey: I do not think of it. Or, at least, I try not to think of it. The term rolls off the tongue like marbles spilling, clicking, and clacking all over the floor of a once tranquil sanctuary. I just don’t like the word. However, I do appreciate the idea behind the term, i.e. libertarians finding common cause with so called conservatives. That is to be desired.
But just as I have told my conservative friends on talk radio, why don’t we drop the conservative label altogether? What exactly are we trying to conserve? Are we not against the status quo? Are we not trying to change it?
In my opinion, the Liberty movement and much of the conservative movement should rebrand themselves as fighting for progress in the name of liberty. This could also attract people from the left by stealing some of the left’s monopoly on the language of progress. Why not bring people from the right and left together? And why not coalesce such a fusion of libertarians, small government conservatives, and locally concerned liberals under the banner of classical liberalism?
Remso: Do you think more or less people would jump on the Conservatarian train if it had a fighting chance?
Joey: More people if we can come up with a different name for the train and stick by liberty as our guiding principle.
Remso: What would you consider the best way to inspire young people to fight for liberty?
Joey: Christopher Hitchens once said in a lecture on the intersection of literature and politics:
“Now the sword, as we have reason to know and it’s an old cliché, is often very much mightier than the pen…in a real fight you’d rather have a sword than a pen. However, there are things that pens can do and that swords definitely cannot. And every tank, even every tank…has a crucial flaw in its design: its driver is the crucial flaw in that design. And suppose we imagine that that driver has recently read something good or has a decent song or a good poem in his head. Imagine that and everything becomes imaginable and not just romantically.”
The point being: help young people to fall in love with liberty first before trying to win an argument, a political contest, or an actual fight. More poets and less politicians. More innovators and less bureaucrats. Of course, reason should be the guiding light leading us through the darkness, but it helps to also create something beautiful out of that darkness in the meantime.
Remso: How can people follow your work?
Joey: People can, of course, find my work on The Libertarian Republic. I too encourage people to check out my personal blog, The Libertarian Fool. I also do two weekly podcasts. One is called the Bunbury Report. The other is co-hosted with Jeffrey Tucker called Tucker and Clark: Being Earnest. I happy to have people follow me on Facebook, and Twitter. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The fool doth think he is wise..."