With midterm election season in full swing, and coming off of my recent interview with the great Murray Sabrin for the Lions of Liberty Podcast, it seems like an appropriate time to examine the role of political action when it comes to advancing the ideas of liberty. As I see it there are generally three schools of thought among libertarians when it comes to the relationship between liberty and politics.
First, we have those who believe political action should be rejected all together, and believe it is best for libertarians to withdraw from “the system” and to operate in the black market, rejecting the established political and economic systems. This is a strategy advanced by Samuel Konkin and is known as the “black market strategy” or “agorism.” I, along with good ‘ol Murray Rothbard, addressed the problems with this strategy in an earlier article. Focusing on the black market strategy alone puts libertarians on the margins from the get-go. It immediately associates “libertarianism” with fringe groups that operate outside of society. In that article, I wrote:
Libertarianism must not be kept on the margins. That is not the way to grow a movement, and not a way to create a freer society.
Second, we have those that do agree that political action is vital to liberty, but don’t believe that libertarian politicians can effectively deliver the full libertarian message because the voting public “isn’t ready for it.” These people will often cite Ron Paul’s lack of success in getting major bills passed or in winning Republican primaries as evidence that boldly putting the libertarian message out there cannot achieve political success. I will refer to this group as the “Tightrope Walkers”, for their ability to walk the line between standard, nothing-to-see-here political rhetoric and a truthful, bold libertarian message. This “splitting the difference” strategy seems to be the one embraced by Rand Paul and his most rabid of supporters.
Lastly, we have what might be referred to as the “Ron Paul Method.” It cannot be denied that during Ron Paul’s thirty year political career that he consistently delivered a bold, truthful libertarian message. Even at times when I would find myself disagreeing with Ron Paul, what was never in doubt was the intention behind his words. The message was clear: “I am not here to ‘play politics’; I am here to speak the truth.”