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More to libertarianism than Donald Trump and Bitcoins

Previously published at www.libertarianinstitute.org

MAGA and liberty tulips.

It has been an interesting decade since the Ron Paul revolution began. But has it has been a period where hopes and promises turned into reality.  Rhetorical blasts from ideological champions surfed the waves of discontent only to profit from the many energies of those trapped and locked beneath them in places of uncertainty. Among such uncertain ranks lays a yearning for change, for something better or to return to a place that never was. Socialists, nationalists, religious zealots and libertarians all find inside of their own particular perspectives answers that can often be fatally dangerous to many strangers. It is also in the attachments to vulgar deceptions that many from within philosophical camps harm their reputations to the outsiders looking in.

Donald Trump’s election came with much promise of change, a vast swamp of decay and opulent corruption was supposed to be drained. Like populists before him, Trump promised much and in the end offered very little difference to those suffering the consequences of policy. For the partisan pundits and easy to upset his election revealed an ugly face of American and Western politics, to them it was a dangerous disdain for political correctness and the politeness of bureaucratic asphyxia and humanitarian mass murder. Trump, the reality television star is brash and vulgar, he is all of the above, just another American President, except he tweets about it and is unapologetic about his many gaffs and political burps.

In a landscape where the Alt-Right holds hands with ‘libertarians,’ where racial realists and apparent individualists find common cause in their respective patriotism, love for free speech and lip service to free markets Trump found himself with an energetic voting force.  It is in the opposition to the status quo and the obnoxious elements of the ‘left’ that much of the Trump alternative support arose. Hatred of Social Justice idiocy, xenophobia and the fantasy of western supremacy saw many libertarians support Trump, forsaking even the party bearing the Libertarian namesake and the son to many of their heroes, and bearer of Ayn’s last name.

Memes were shared, Hoppean texts were devoured as lectures by Milo Yianopolis and Jordan Peterson bashed the academic toxicity that had began to further permeate across campus and into the wider public.   Trump was the man who would put an end to this, at the very end he would send a very stiff finger right up the middle of the establishment and its Buzzfeed, CNN, gender fluid gaggle of villains. He is as Milo put it “Daddy Trump” to a meme sharing generation of anti-Left Americans who obsess with accusing others of being ‘cucks’ as they themselves seek the comforting shadows of a supposedly mighty alpha, to fix the world as they desire it for them. Cuckolding one issue at a time to make America great again.

Notable libertarians from respected academics such as Walter Block to the more inconsistent though always popular Alex Jones and Stefan Molyneux threw their lot in with the Trump train. Many podcasts, YouTube videos and articles were written explaining why it was wise to support this lesser of two evils. Molyneux’s Freedomain radio and Alex Jones’ Infowars became unofficial wings for the Trump campaign attacking his rivals, destroying his critics and defending each and every flaw that Trump may have, especially for the libertarian ears listening. Much was omitted, and what was admitted was gloriously relevant to helping build up Trump’s stock.

Roger Stone and the alternative news media which helped with great enthusiasm to perform a service for the Trump campaign were all but dropped after the election and slowly politics took over.  The supporters who stained their claimed principles stayed true to their love for the man while others stumbled and with time know that the public’s mind will erode such easy access memories. Those advocates that remained do so because of their apparent contrarian joy at seeing SJWs and democrats triggered, enjoying in the tears and irrational anger that these as political monstrosities throw tantrums at the mention of Trump, let alone after one of his trolling tweets. For many of these libertarians upsetting CNN and SJW cry babies was more important than the expansion of war, cruise missiles over the skies of Syria could unify for a time both critic and supporter alike. Killing distant foreigners was the most presidential thing that Trump could do, he was adored for it.

To many who know very little about libertarianism and the philosophy of liberty, Trump has now become shoehorned into the conversation. The influence that certain libertarians had in his election and their constant cheerleading has in many ways destroyed the credibility of the American liberty movement, which traditionally tended to ignore the rest of the world anyhow.  The libertarians who had worked so hard during the Ron Paul years, those who went back to the Harry Browne days who cherished individualism, freedom and considered foreign life as dearly as they do American life, are now bombarded alongside altright racialists.  Men like Christopher Cantwell whose fame came about thanks to his flirtations and slight celebrity inside the New Hampshire free state project and his professions of being libertarian, in practice knew very little about the principles of liberty, yet pollutes it with hateful language. Such guilt by association tarnishes the movements reputation before the eyes of both friend, foe and indifferent bystander alike.

It seems that many who climbed on board the momentous Ron Paul campaign of 2007 may have just been susceptible to contrarian stances and the promise of liberty, not the active pursuit of it. Just as Bernie Sanders may have also absorbed some of those who were inspired by Ron Paul, so too does it seem that Trump has unwittingly recruited the many youthful and internet savvy who helped to make Doctor Paul so viral, in the early days of web viracy. Perhaps it was not so much the purity of his message but the trending contrarian nature of Doctor Paul that many of these claimed libertarians and early Tea Partiers were drawn to. Now that the good doctor has semi-retired, the next best thing in their minds, the supposed outsider Donald Trump is ‘good enough.’

The new and slowly reshaping technologies are exciting but they can also be dangerous, as is the case with any device or machine. It is how it is wielded. Many have been invented with the promise of liberation, whether in freeing humanity from labor or from the horrors of nature or humanity itself. And most technology has done this, it has also been wielded by humanity whose tendency seems geared to a more oppressive and murderous utility. Bitcoin is the most famous of the new digital currencies, the alternative to the dollar, all fiat and in some cases even precious metals, the traditional wise investment for monarchs and liberty minded people alike.

Enter a libertarian chat zone, leap onto one of the liberty minded websites, follow libertarian memedrones or even listen to a podcast for a liberty activist and you will be hard pressed to find one that does not go on about bitcoin or blockchain currency. It was very early on with its initial inception that bitcoin took root with liberty minded activists, many seeing the benefits to its utility while others enjoyed the perks of using it as an investment. At present those who trusted in it early are enjoying the rewards it has been sewing, even as mindless mobs rush to its euphoric promises of endless wealth.

Whether bitcoin and one of the many other thousands of recently appearing crypto currencies are a bubble or not is not really that important. No doubt more will come, as many disappear, bitcoin may climb to one million fiat dollars for all we know.  Or it may not. At this time, it is an investment, a trend that not just liberty minded individuals are drawn to. Speculators, morally bankrupt businesses and governments are interested in the blockchains for its ability to mine wealth. Yet it is with consistent interest and excitement that many inside the liberty movement are fixated with its growth and intrigue. In their minds and many outsiders listening it is the libertarian currency or at worse, liberty tulip.

Like Trump, who has had little do with liberty, who has done little to help its cause and who will no doubt go on to perpetuate traditional American governance for more war, debt and prohibition. Bitcoin is a non-moral entity, it has no real value to liberty. It can be used for good, like a dollar or a gold bar and it can be used for wicked. Yet, many libertarians celebrate its emergence as though it is some triumphant achievement, no cancer was cured, and no world peace found. Just an up surging investment and/or an alternative to fiat currency.  It is in the alternative to the status quo that its real value seems to hold the must credit with many. Currency is not principled however it is merely a tool.

It seems that by somehow rubbing cryptos in the face of central banks or governments that libertarians interested in the technology can stick it to the man. Should bitcoin and its rivals become more common and used instead of the dollar, Euro or Yuan will this then bring about liberty? Will the wars end, will political prisoners find freedom? Will censorship become a thing of the past? Or will it merely just be another currency that the innocent and despicable alike shall use indifferent to any wider principles or imagined crypto utopia.

It seems that many libertarians are simply interested in making money, or bitcoins, they are more interested in the growth of their own investments than they are in actual liberty. And marred alongside a pseudo alternative they can proclaim their wisdom or feel assured that their wealth and investment is also running alongside their moral interests for libertarianism. Perhaps when governments pay their uniformed mercenaries to kill with bitcoins, then this monetary utopia can be found?

There is nothing wrong with making money. Nothing wrong with wealth. For libertarians however, there are more pressing and important things than bitcoins and cryptos.  The misery inside of Yemen, Somalia or Syria can not be fixed with dollars, gold or bitcoin. And spending hours blathering on about the supremacy of bitcoin instead of the real issues makes libertarianism seem more akin to financial investment than it does a moral philosophy.  The wider perspective of legacy will show that in years from now many libertarians will stand on the record speculating and fantasizing about a financial tool than they did in discussing the calamity of war, poverty, ecological destruction and freedom itself.

Just as the Trump regime shall go down with notoriety alongside the previous presidents, it is with the shrill support from many ‘libertarians’ that the supposedly individualist and the no or small government philosophy shall be tainted. Those new to the concepts of liberty, who are unhappy with politics, who are anti-war or despise prohibition may find comfort inside the ranks of the traditional left, dissuaded by the positive messages of many libertarians simply because much of their time was spent campaigning for just another U.S. president or a blockchain that lacks any moral weight.

In the past many right-libertarians were absent when it came to the discussion of war and imperialism at the height of the cold war, so too does it seem that their voices are growing thin in criticizing empire in this era. The real left for all its putrid faults and domestic imperialism can easily seduce many into its folds with its consistent focus on rights and the plights of those suffering, especially to non-Americans. No matter how wrong we know their answers to be so long as libertarians are married to Trump and Bitcoin it is hard to counter balance the alternatives to the non aggression principle because there are plenty of lesser of evils to be argued. Politicians will always be politicians and money, is still just money. Liberty is precious. Maybe someday, some libertarians will appreciate this more than the appeal of another trend.

 

Kym Robinson, December 2017

Published inAll Articles and EssaysPhilosophy, Society and LibertyWar, History and Foreign Policy

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