A Letter to My Father
By Wendy McElroy - August 07, 2014

There is an attempt to change the ground rules of libertarianism through introducing left-leaning attitudes and concepts. Two distinct approaches are in play within this attempt. I applaud one. I will leave the movement if the other prevails.

My friend Chris Sciabarra exemplifies the first approach. He wants to analyze the movement through the intellectual lens and tool of dialectics, which is usually associated with Marxism. By the term "dialectics," Chris means "context setting" or "context holding." All ideas are influenced by other ideas, institutions and events. In turn, they influence everything else. For example, you should not examine an idea such as emergence of labor unions in isolation. You need to consider the dialectics from which it arose in order to grasp what happened. For example, you need to consider the impact of World War I upon labor relations in America. I think Chris is correct and he adds value, even though I am cautious about a few aspects of his approach.

The second approach is found in the absurd and manufactured debates about "thin" and "thick" libertarianism – the "humanitarians" versus the "brutalists." It is an attempt to introduce political correctness into libertarianism so that it is not enough to advocate nonviolence; you have to advocate it for the right reason, as defined by those who provide themselves as moral filters. They call me a brutalist. This means I will never violate your rights; your children, your property are safe in my presence because I respect your right to live in peace. But I don't protect your children for the right reasons. For this, I am to be excoriated. This is the second approach to a new definition of libertarianism: People wish to analyze society not according to whether it is voluntary but in order to ferret out signs of power and privilege which they self-righteously condemn. Consider open source software. It has been castigated as a realm of privilege because it predominantly consists of white men. Open source software is source code that is thrown into the public realm so that anyone can modify and enhance it. It is a pure expression of free speech; the product is available to everyone for free; there are no entry barriers or requirements other than caring enough to learn code. Learning code is also available and free to all.

I think it was the condemnation of open source software that made me crack. Out of the goodness of his heart, my husband has devoted substantial time to what amounts to an intellectual charity. He pursues it for the same reason he repairs and gives computers for free to underprivileged children; he believes in the power of technology to lift people out of poverty. (BTW, I strongly suggest no one criticize my husband to my face on this point; I am likely to render the most Irish of all responses.)

Open source software is condemned for no other reason than it involves few women or minorities. This reflects nothing more than the choice of those women and minorities. It costs nothing to learn coding. Tutorials are available for free to all and everywhere. Correction: It does cost time and effort. The individual has to exert him or herself. I'm not willing to make the investment but neither do I blame the first white guy I see for my own inertia. If there is something in the culture of women and of specific minorities that prevents them from rising, then blame the culture. Don't blame a white man like my husband who is falling over himself to provide a free service. (Correction: my husband is Hispanic … but that won't give him a free pass. I mean, after all … the genitalia. And the grand critics of society don't really care for accuracy.)

Last night, I contemplated my exit from a movement that considers me to be a "brutalist" after years of unpaid work promoting nonviolence. I found myself engaging in an emotional release that I've used for many years. I wrote a letter to my father. My dad died when I was ten years old. I loved him. I would not be a writer without him. I don't even know if I'd be a good human being if he hadn't taught me the meaning of kindness during my formative years.

Hello, Dad. Your face is in front of me now as though your arm were around me and you were telling the truly, truly stupid jokes that you enjoyed so much. "You think your nose is running but its snot!" You haven't really been in front of me for a very long time. You dropped dead on the pavement outside your work when I was ten. They rushed you to the hospital and my brother thinks you recognized him when you were being admitted but all that was wrap-up. I know you died alone on that cold slab of pavement and I never saw you again.

I am writing now, as I have written to you so many times since I was ten, because I need to figure something out. And you could always make me stop crying, you could always make things better. I am being called a creature of privilege because my skin is white. I am told you are a vicious "carrier" of political privilege because your skin is white. If you didn't know you were racist, sexist and vicious, then this is allegedly proof of how ingrained your racism, sexism and viciousness was; you were in denial. That's a neat trick to pull for anyone who doesn't want to produce evidence and wants to win the argument by making it always circle back to their being right by definition.

Dad, I honestly don't know what to do. You taught me to treat every human being with civility and compassion. I never saw you raise your hand and I rarely heard you raise your voice to anyone. But the movement that I've tried to call home is saying I am a brutal product of privilege. You, as a white man, are accused of creating privilege and committing injustice merely by drawing breath.

I lived with you, Dad. Every morning of your life you woke up, made sure your children were fed and then you caught a bus to go to work. You did what was necessary for my brother and me to have a better life, and you did it every single day of your life without complaint. You worked yourself to death to make sure I had a better future. All the "thin" v. "thick" libertarians, all the faux "humanitarian" v. "brutulalist" libertarians pretend to understand and have compassion for the downtrodden. They are frauds and poseurs. I can explain what deprivation means. It means growing up with a photograph of your father because you will never, ever see him again. He will never swing you in his arms. You will never again hear him whistle in the morning while he is shaving. At night, you will cry yourself to sleep because no one is there for a "mummy tuck." That's when the blankets are tucked tightly around you and the game is to not break the tuck … lest an Egyptian curse fall upon your head.

So, Dad, privilege. Apparently for these skin-obsessed people, the fact that our skin is white means we are part of the oppressive power structure. Much of the argument is based on slavery, which existed in the United States, and in Canada … not so much. But don't quibble about facts. It does not matter that our antecedents – close enough in proximity to be great-grandparents – came over in boats from Ireland with a 50% chance of dying in transit or thereafter; hell, those were better odds than they faced back home with the potato famine. The people who consider me a brutalist and a de facto source of injustice because of my skin color, those people ignore the fact that the Irish were used in the prebellum South to do jobs, like clearing swamps, that were considered too perilous. After all, slaves constituted a capital investment. The Irish were as cheap as dirt. It doesn't matter that "my people" were socially lower than slaves; we are still racist oppressors because we are white. Remind me who is the racist here. Me, or the people judging everything and everyone by their skin color?

I don't mean to reduce everything to politics. That is an empty, cold place. But, Dad, I wish I could access your common sense. I would give a year of my life to feel your arms around me, telling me it was going to be OK. Please help me. When I was five years old and probably the most serious, somber little thing anyone had ever met, you made me laugh. You made sense of the world and put everything in perspective.

I love you, Dad. Now and forever. I hope there is an afterlife. Because never seeing you again seems too cruel to be true. Rest assured that as long as I stand I will never again allow anyone to strip you of individuality and coldly categorize you as an oppressor because of your skin color. You were a good man who lived a good life and loved your children … you were the salvation of me. Anyone who wants to call you vicious will have to walk through me to get that podium.

Why do I suspect loving my father may mean leaving the movement? What does this say about the movement?

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  • H. Rearden

    Hi Wendy. I stand with you on this situation. Those who are pushing this Huamanitarianist v Brutalist or Thick v Thin do not speak for the entire movement.

    • It is good to have friends, HR, and I can’t even remember how long you and I have been chatting with each other on forums, discussion threads and email. It has been at least, ten years and maybe much longer. The sustained presence of friends like you is one of the few rewards of sticking with the ideas. Thank you.

      • Diocletian75

        I have spent much more of my spare time here lurking and joyfully reading than commenting–I can count the number of my comments on The Bell on the fingers of one hand. I ‘d like you to know that, though you don’t know me, I, too, am on your side.

      • H. Rearden

        Thank you Wendy.

  • Dave Meekhof

    I don’t feel comfortable when ‘movements’ define people, as if one had to be ‘all in’, you’re either ‘with us or against us’. No, people define the movement and when it begins to follow you, stick on you, disguise you; then there is something wrong. If you need a movement, then embrace Wendyism. And don’t worry about the mud slingers. They will get their way in the end. Nature is the great equalizer where all earthly existence gets equalized soon enough. Have pity for those who can’t wait.

    • I deleted the first ending for my article because I thought it sounded contrived and I wanted to make as sincere a statement as I could. The first ending was my final message to PC left libertarians. (BTW, I still am a huge fan of some of their work. Ken Carson can’t produce enough analysis of history as far as I’m concerned.) But the first ending was “Laissez-faire, laissez passez.” Let us do, let us be. This is, of course, what a businessman named Le Gendre reportedly said in the 17th century to the powerful and evill French finance minister Colbert when the minister asked how to assist them. Those who argue against a vague privilege based on skin or genitalia need to get out of the way of people who are actually fighting for freedom.

  • Disco Biscuits

    So, Richard Stallman is a misogynist? What do these humanists plan to do about it? Boycott open source and stick with the government protected IP of proprietary software? As Stallman says, if you are not in control of the software, then the software is controlling you.

    LOL. These people are a joke.

    If I am a “brutalist” for fighting government protectionism by using open source, then so be it. The “humanists” are the ones violating basic libertarian principles. I think they should just join the Democrat Party, which they probably already belong to.

    What’s next? “Parental licensing”? Oh wait…

    • I hear you, Disco Biscuits. The main hope of freedom we have right now is in technology and in those who are trying to open it up rather than trying to close it down through patents, copyright and the like. This article was my intellectual equivalent of screaming out loud because I had read one too many articles about power and privilege in libertarianism. I don’t know if these people are carving out career paths for themselves or whether they actually believe what they say. I don’t know which is worse. But I do know such people are not in it for the freedom.

      • Diocletian75

        No, they are not !

        They are “leaking” their sociopathy, their desire to bully, rule, and enslave. They are contemptuous of NAP, but most of them lack the balls (or the gonads) to expressly admit it. If they did, they would not be libertarians; they would be explicit communists.

      • Disco Biscuits

        ” I don’t know if these people are carving out career paths for themselves or whether they actually believe what they say.”

        Everyone wants to make a name for themselves, I suppose. Some simply make up stuff and don’t do the research. Ignorance may also be a cause.

  • Wendy, with all due respect, it is NOT “the movement” which defines you or any of us. It is you and all of us who contribute to the greater understanding of non-aggression who define ourselves by doing so. Besides, there really is no such thing as “the movement” when you come right down to it.

    • Robert, thank you for the comment. It is not that I am defined by the movement. It is that I am seriously shaken by how political correctness is inserting itself into and beginning to define the dialogue of the movement. I have been exceptionally accepting of left libertarianism while most everyone else around me has been crying “foul!” against its rejection of capitalism and various other intellectual bents. I am no longer willing to hear one more argument telling me that someone is privileged and should feel some shame or debt because of the color of their skin or their genitalia. It is over. My willingness to tolerate such viciousness is over. What is defining me is what I hope has defined me for all my life. A sense of fair play.

      • Jim Kluttz

        “My willingness to tolerate such viciousness is over.”

        Mine,too. The history of some white Europeans is certainly nothing to write home about, but neither is the history of some of the Japanese, Chinese or Egyptians, etc. The insanity of political correctness is destroying what little intellectual rigor there is left in the good old USA. PC is pervasive. Just talk to white grade school students, many of whom are already indoctrinated. Marxian nonsense.

        In my opinion nonviolent libertarianism is the antidote for this sickness. Maybe that is why it is now under attack, supposedly from within?

        Please keep up the good work.

  • someone_random

    Submitted to StumbleUpon. Like it.

  • Lee

    Take heart Wendy, all is not lost! As a fellow libertarian decendent of the Irish, they will have to walk through me, to get to you, to get to the podium. Gosh, that sounds kind of “brutish.” So be it! By the way, your Dad lives through your words and ideas. Even I now know him. Best regards!

  • Bill Ross

    morning Wendy;

    good to see that you are still very PO`d regarding those who are attempting to “divide and conquer” libertarians by introducing the artificial concepts / divisions of hyphenated libertarian while giving lip service to NAP, but implying this principle can be rationalized away for alleged “greater good” or, complying with groupthink.

    CS: “context setting” or “context holding.”

    This is an attempt to define a box, or restricted view of reality, which considers institutional components such as labor unions as a fact of life, something that must be accepted as boundary conditions, unchangeable in the “derivation of solutions”. What this really means is an argument to accept forcefully imposed entrenched violations of NAP as an “immutable FACT”. Libertarian loses on this path.

    Some career wisdom: When I started as a junior systems engineer, I was trapped in an intellectual box, my innovation restricted by the assumption that my products must be a combination of existing components. Then, as I progressed and was trusted by management to take a risk on my ideas, existing components were inadequate to meet my goals. I defined new components and they were combined to execute new ideas. I remember well this early epiphany: “there is NO box” apart from my intellectual freedom working within the limitations of natural law, my ability to convince / educate my team on “new ways” and, of course state of the art ability in basic technology such as microelectronics, software, etc.

    “thin” and “thick” libertarianism

    Well, rather than using the “box” of context, the “box” of “morality” limiting / restricting NAP is used.

    IMHO, these divisions are introduced by fifth columnists who may or may not be elite plants attempting to subvert libertarianism. They may also be intellectual careerists, seeking to introduce fraudulent value added complexity to satisfy their need to compete (and be published) for the position of intellectual top dog in a false environment of believing that truth bears any relationship to democratic opinion.

    Exec Summary: There is NO BOX, “thinking within the box” is an artificially imposed lobotomy / limitation, NOT REAL The only valid context is natural law.

    THINK about it:


    and, the success / failure of libertarian views, ability to “win hearts and minds” on social / economic organization is directly proportional to the purity of NAP as represented by libertarians. I agree fully with you that the intellectual masturbators / charlatans adopting the libertarian label as camouflage need to be “gonged”, “outed”, “off the island”.

    Pure, un-hyphenated Libertarian / NAP is a very broad umbrella, able to encompass all of mankind in peaceful, voluntary division of labor, excluding predators / criminals, who, as insane, must be dealt with according to their own morality / values, which, unfortunately does not include reason:


    WM: “may mean leaving the movement?”

    Truth is, some in the movement are NOT libertarians according to NAP. They have left you. Liberty is won one heart and mind at a time. You are already there, its just a matter of fending off predators and their rationalizers until the herd catches up to the leaders such as you. You appear to be despairing because some are not following. The reason is that they seek control. Your other “crime” is not jumping on the “I`m a po woman, subsidize my weakness” bandwagon.

    Be free, stay the obstinate course. The rest of the objective thinkers / realists are rapidly joining you, because you are correct:


    • Thank you for the considered and thought-provoking response, Bill. I am wrapping my mind around Sciabarra’s dialectics right now because I am writing an ambitious book review of the revised edition of his “Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical.” This is the middle book of his trilogy on the dialectics of liberty. Chris is excellent — and no one beats that guy when it comes to scholarship — but I may disagree with him on a few fundamentals. There is something that bothers me about dialectics and I am not yet able to articulate it. But the great thing about Chris is that he’s going to be interested in where I diverge and want to hear it all in detail…because ideas are *that* interesting.

      As to rejecting the “box”…you are flat-out correct. When I wrote the article on fleeing — an engaged withdrawal — rather than an engaged confrontation with the state, I realized it was stepping way outside the box. http://www.thedailybell.com/editorials/35502/Wendy-McElroy-Flee-Rather-Than-Stand-Your-Ground/ BTW, when I say “leave the movement” I don’t mean giving up on the ideas. I would probably try to strike up a vigorous partnership with Carl Watner and go back to my roots in voluntaryism. I am not sure what I’m going to do but it is going to be different from what I have done to date. I think I will be calling Carl tonight.

    • alaska3636

      Correction: There is no “spoon.” 🙂

      The precepts of the mind create necessary heuristics for perception that don’t overload brain power. An “open mind” is simply an acknowledgment of the ontology of the mind. It wants to see, therefor it sees. The awareness that it takes to step outside of this system is not as far as some “in the box” people may think and while some find it by disposition, it can certainly be strengthened by practice (as with all things.)

      In fact the lines of the box may be as thick or thin (punned) as an individual is willing to fight against the certainty of their preconceptions. But, there is no “spoon.” All worthwhile scientists should recognize that human instruments and the infinite data provided by the universe would frequently cause contradictory perceptions while making truth a slippery hog,

      I suspect you are quite right about the motivations for creating a faux-dialog as a means of purposeful sand pounding. “I need to write something, but Rothbard took all the good arguments. Guess I’ll just make one up, define it ambiguously and go from there.” If it’s controversially intended or not, so much so the better that it is. Then more essays may follow, for “clarification” and “expansion of definition.”

  • $6618258

    Thanks for the heads up, I never heard of “thin” v “thick” libertarianism in the past.

    • Well, I don’t recommend you google it because the information will be bad for your digestion. But it is an emerging theme in the movement that resists the death it deserves. Thanks for posting, Frank.

      • Bill Ross

        gees Wendy, how bout some reasonable self-promotion? you discussed this in last weeks column. Frank should read it.

        • Yeah. I’ve never been good at self-promo. Frank, here’s the link if you want a condensed sense of the really bizarre conflict that some people clearly want to sell to the movement. http://thedailybell.com/editorials/35519/Wendy-McElroy-Relationship-of-Politics-to-Morality/

          • Greg Jaxon

            Tucker sounds like he thinks individual liberty is a corollary of utilitarianism. That may be a fine sort of motivation for it, but it has the whole picture backwards. One would always have to suspect then that there might be trade-offs of liberty for other utility, and that if so, these would become imperatives not voluntary choices of individuals making a trade.

          • Bill Ross

            you`re too kind to Tucker. He had every opportunity to clarify himself last week and flubbed it by evasiveness. His position smacks of `social policy`, the forceful imposition of values that are a restricted subset of peaceful. He`s built and now destroyed his reputation. at least with me. Wendy 1, Tucker 0.

            I think the best way to out these faux libertarians is pointing out that force is the only way to impose their `moral` lobotomies and, they are thus arguing against NAP.

            And, to claim to be a libertarian is insufficient. The group (NAP, libertarian social contract) must also consent to associate:


    • Lester Thompson Jr

      I’ve never commented here and I don’t know your rules regarding posting links, so Frank I’ll just say if you go to Lew Rockwell dot com and search for an article titled “The Future of Libertarianism” it’s a good quick read on the subject of the “Thick” vs. “Thin” debate.

      Wendy, great article as always. Thank you

      • Bill Ross

        no rules apart from being polite, collaborative, and if so inclined, make obvious trolls unwelcome. Behave as if you are a guest in DB`s home.

      • Lester, thanks for the comment. And feel free to post whatever you think will benefit people on the Daily Bell. Building a community that enriches each other is what this site all about. Cheers.

  • Diocletian75

    Good day Wendy,

    I have discovered that sometimes it becomes necessary for one to disassociate from people with whom one shared a friendship, a marriage, a business partnership, or other association, in spite of the years together, because one has evolved–or because they have DEvolved !

    Ayn Rand realized how mongrelized the philosophy of libertarianism and its political party were, and she rightly made a vehement effort to disassociate herself and her philosophy from it. As do I whenever someone erroneously concludes from their conversations with me that I am a “libertarian”, or a Tea Party member, the latter of which I would never join for the same reason.

    I am a classical liberal, the complete antithesis of a contemporary liberal. Because I spend a lot of my spare time in the Five Colleges area of western Massachusetts, when I explain to people what a classical liberal is, and how laissez-faire capitalism, correctly understood, would solve the social/economic problems and injustices that they rail against, most of them, given their statist political philosophy vilify me, accusing me of being a fascist, or a racist, sexist, classist, lookist, ageist, ableist, homophobic, or some other politically-correct epithet. When this happens I immediately realize that I am in the presence of uncivilized, brutish people, undeserving of civility from me on account of the uncivilized ends to which their philosophy inevitably leads in practice–robbing me of my property and murdering me with impunity if they had their way–so I abruptly end the “conversation”, sweetly tell them to their faces to go fvk themselves, and take my leave of them, ready to strike them with retaliatory blows–fatal ones if necessary–should they reply with blows instead of more curses.

    Perhaps the time has come for you to formally break with the libertarian group, and proudly stand alone, speaking and writing your mind as you do so well, and being unapologetically discriminatory with the company that you choose to keep among them, if any, with the memory of your father’s affection for you and civility towards others as a comfort and a continual guide and companion.

    • Kennon Gilson

      Rand was referencing conservatives masquerading as L/libertarians. My understanding is that she was a libertarian-friendly Liberal, and made very clear her concern was straightening out Liberal democracy and was loathe to speculate from there.

      • matt

        Hey man, couldn’t respond to your comment at original location so I respond here instead. I’m not a reflexive critic of Rand. There’s a great deal of good in her work. But if you look at her various quotes, particularly about the matter of charity, it becomes quite clear she held some extraordinarily inhumane views about those in need.

  • alaska3636

    This article was a gen-you-wine “Wendy!”

    Sometimes the search for an objective, universal truth can only be enlightened by a subjective anecdote. As the saying goes in the shrink’s office, “Often, the experiences that we feel are unique, are quite universally shared.” Tricky habit of the mind to suppose it is individual when it is being quite generally human.

    I suppose that a lot of earnest writers in the freedom conversation have felt similarly scorned about the faux-distinction of “thick and thin.” I’m not sure what to make of it myself, however, I will always find myself on the side of candor such as you have expressed here.

    Some people will always want to twist the application and the logical conclusion of the NAP. It is a frightening concept full of embracing the unknown and embracing the difficult responsibility of human action and embracing the wisdom to known the difference between action and reaction. It is beyond the minds of many who are afraid to leave their preconceptions who end up attacking good people for holding different ideas.

    The feedbackers at the DB, I suspect, quite like your honesty and ideas; and while I don’t know your actions, I suspect, they’d like those too. The underlying premise that attracted me to “the movement” in the first place, led me here to these pages and kept me around, was the idea that truth was more important than the lies that people have been intentionally mislead about and that the judgment of a person’s actions is more important from a social standpoint than the ideas that led them to act.

    I don’t have a problem imagining a world created by the incentives of laissez-faire, laissez passez.” In my construction, this is the world closest to fulfilling the truth of human nature: to create meaningful work and relationships and to avoid the pitfalls of biological heuristics that make power over others seem quite nice. Anything else, any other structure of society, creates the arbitrary sense that one or a few people ought to impose their consciousness on other conscious people.

    • Bill Ross

      “logical conclusion of the NAP. It is a frightening concept full of embracing the unknown”

      what have you been smoking? What are the possible consequences of NAP? Nobody can `legally` initiate aggression against others, so nobody will be forced to defend except from predators / criminals. This was the historical defense function of states until they decided to become “master predator”

      History has already proven that people organize voluntarily to help the unfortunate, to teach them a “hand up”

      You show be more afeared of statist “solutions” since they are predicated on aggression against some for the alleged benefit of others. States by engaging in aggressive action are inevitably met with equal and opposite reactions, as people (AKA: terrorists) are forced to adapt defensive methods. This is what you should fear, because it is here, real, right NOW.

      • alaska3636

        The logical conclusion of which I speak is that, under the NAP, people will lo longer have a centralized institution for enforcing their arbitrary whims about “proper” behaviors.

        It is the fear of the unknown which prompts people to seek state solutions, despite their evident and obvious faults. Even so-called libertarians balk at this logical conclusion and try to make concessions for what they project will be the misuse of this new state of affairs: namely, the abuse of freedom.

        As has been expounded on by Mises, Hayek and Rothbard, the future is inherently unknowable for reasons I do not seek to get into here. As further expounded, this should be embraced as the natural mechanism of price discovery and the best means for efficient allocation of resources which under other (false) paradigms results in the arbitrary enforcement of subjective whims and the misallocation of information that goes with it.

        Decentralization is not just a natural phenomena, it is a new paradigm for many people to interpret the various concatenation of natural phenomena and to organize their perceptions to take effective human action.

        I do not think that we disagree; however, I am afeared that I should write more clearly.

        • Bill Ross

          perhaps those who are afeared believe that NAP is a philosophy, to be imposed as opposed to a forceful behavior prohibition?

          I do agree that some people will choose to ad-hoc organize peacefully, but with voluntary social contracts that I would (and can) refuse.

          Just like freedom of expression: Walk away if you dont want to hear / see it. Not your right to prevent it

          Freedom to choose your own friends / associations / terms, master of your own destiny. What`s not to like?

          • alaska3636

            “perhaps those who are afeared believe that NAP is a philosophy, to be imposed as opposed to a forceful behavior prohibition?”

            That’s exactly it. Critics of the natural organization of peaceful human relations known as the NAP, seem to want to imagine its operation within the current paradigm of centralized force, which is a contradiction in terms, as it is a different (more peaceful and economically prosperous) paradigm.

            The DB prefers to focus on the (forcefully imposed and constantly justified) constructs of corporate personhood and central banking, which could not exist as currently conceived under a decentralized acceptance of NAP. Big government forces acceptance of big money and big business. There is no freedom to walk away, as you say.

            Just ran across this farce on my lunch break: 200 Public Figures Calling for Scotland to Stay in the UK


            Fear of the unknown is a powerful disincentive to fundamental change. The moral theory that states that what is immoral for one man to do is acceptable when done by men through institutionalized force is the current paradigm. It’s the filter that many use unconsciously when justifying their fearful reaction to the logical conclusion of the NAP: there is only the illusion of control and authority is a voluntary contract rooted in subjective value; thus, do not unto others.

            What people know to exist in their own relationships is suspended as if by anti-gravity when it runs aground of the State.

      • Dave Meekhof

        “Nobody can `legally` initiate aggression against others, so nobody will be forced to defend except from predators / criminals.”

        Initiate is the operative word. I’d rather see NAIP (non aggression initiation principle). I understand that the term aggression carries an ‘unprovoked’ meaning, but extra clarity never hurts. And I don’t believe that standing up to aggression in all its forms, makes me or anyone brutish.

  • My heart goes out to you. My dad and your dad sound like they had a lot in common. I can’t imagine what you must have gone through when you lost him only to be compounded every time you have needed him since. XOXOXO

    I too am sooooo tired of the privilege checking crowd. I’m in a singlewide trailer that is falling apart with a disabled husband and as of right now, we, again, have no income until the disability insurance company decides when they want to send us a check. I literally have $5 in my pocket and that is it! I see no privilege here… I do see us being denied any assistance that, despite our situation, we still have to pay for. I do see money that we could have saved to use in a time such as this being used to kill innocent people and control governments all over the globe. I’m in my late 30s and finally getting some college education: but all on loans that if I don’t pay back I risk a wealth of trouble w/the federal government. I’m still not seeing the privilege here…

    God, I had it out with a feminazi last night who, in the end, deleted all her comments because I called her out on every drivel of b.s. she spouted at me. Claims to help oppressed women but I don’t see her doing ANYTHING to help anyone – just yelling and spouting half-statements that make no sense. Nearly every interaction with a feminist has been negative. The ones that haven’t been negative are because we avoid talking about feminism. Seriously, if they want to help oppressed women, then go to where women are oppressed and do some good there.

    My husband is half Mexican, 1/4 Italian and 1/4 French Canadian. But he looks white. He struggles to survive on a daily basis battling his diabetes, heart problems, and a lot of other chronic conditions including an as-of-yet diagnosed problem that makes his daily life a living hell (we personally think it’s chronic pancreatitis). Our insurance was cut thanks to Obummercare and I have my own chronic pain issues I cannot afford to take care of. Where is our privilege???? Cause I’m looking around and I don’t see it…

    I hate my kids are having to and will have to deal with this. My oldest, now an adult, is easily rattled and enraged by this privilege nonsense. His life hasn’t been easy either. My youngest two (1/4 Mexican) I pray won’t have to deal with it. People are stunned they are 1/4 Mexican, esp my very fair-skinned coppertop 7 year old. But they are…

    See, the thing is – race is a social construct. It has no place in science. It’s not biology. What is biology is that ethnicity/race disappears within two or three generations (as evidenced well in my own household). The truth is that there is no race – there is only a species – the human species. And if people really wanted to end racism, they would quit talking about it but nooooooooo. They gotta continue to drag this nonsense out in order to inflate themselves and feel like some sort of social warrior. It’s bullying and it’s disgusting. And I’m tired of it.

    Well, sorry for the rambling rant here. Esp sorry if it didn’t make sense. I’m somewhat heavily medicated on Benadryl and have yet to sleep it off. But I hope my points were made well enough for people to understand that this privilege-checking nonsense isn’t justice. It’s the antithesis of justice because it ignores the struggles that INDIVIDUALS have to endure. Struggles are not dependent on skin color or the existence of a penis or vagina. Struggles are real and we all have them. If people really want to help, then shut the **** up and help instead of spouting nonsense drivel that clouds and distracts the issues and belittles and demeans those that are struggling.

    • Reagan, thanks for your response and for the trust it takes to be as open as you are. As a mother, this issue must be very, very personal. My best girlfriend was half-crying, half-yelling when she told me that her 12-year-old son had come home from school feeling ashamed because he was white. I am grateful I do not have to deal with that aspect of the political correctness that now dominates entire areas of society (like education) and is creeping into libertarianism. And the damnable thing is that it inserted itself because of people’s general decency and goodwill. They genuinely thought it was wrong for minorities and women to be excluded from some of the advantages of society. If it had only stopped there, then it wouldn’t be mud-slinging, hate-filled mess of mandated privilege it is now.

      You wrote, “My husband is half Mexican, 1/4 Italian and 1/4 French Canadian. But he
      looks white. He struggles to survive on a daily basis battling his
      diabetes, heart problems, and a lot of other chronic conditions
      including an as-of-yet diagnosed problem that makes his daily life a
      living hell (we personally think it’s chronic pancreatitis).” I am sorry you’re going through this. My husband is healthy but, otherwise, he sounds like the man you married. No one would believe this football quarterback guy with skin that burns in the sun is largely Cuban. Spanish actually…but only in the same sense I’m Irish. We sort of bounced from the homeland and made it around the world before we settled in. Please extend my best regards to your husband.

      Your coppertop child reminds me of my nieces. Two of them, with prominently Hispanic names, are blond and blue-eyed. The other one is black because she was adopted. I remember having an epiphany many years ago while traveling on a plane. The stewardess asked “the Garcia family” to identify themselves…and they did. All blonde, blue or gray-eyed (as far as I could tell) and looking like they could be Danish. I broke into a grin because I thought “this is what Hispanics look like now” and it was such a wonderful breaking down of every stereotype and preconception…which is what the races *need* — not to have all assumptions embedded within law. Interestingly, my nieces can live both sides of the fence to their advantage. When they want funding for tuition, they can apply as a minority. When it is to their advantage not to be Hispanic, I doubt if they will encounter any prejudice at all. As a libertarian, I would repeal every law that privileges them as quickly as possible. As an aunt, I am glad to see it if they prosper…but it has nothing whatsoever to do with fairness at all. And it needs to go.

      Lady, you will be in my thoughts tonight as I fall to sleep. And I will be wishing you and your family nothing but the best.

      • Thanks so much! I know we have it hard, but I recognize that it could be far worse and there are others that have it way worse off than we do. It doesn’t belittle what we are going through, but I acknowledge it. All this race-baiting and privilege nonsense does is serve to divide us. Part of the bread and circus nonsense. I dream of the day (and work towards it, esp with my kids) when that can fall away. I may have said this before but one of the reasons I’m a geeky sci-fi chick is because it deals directly with prejudices and shows humans as one, but also as individuals. Differences are celebrated but not the point of exclusion and supremacy. *That* is something definitely worth working for. 🙂 I doubt I can find it but there was a genealogy article (I’m my family’s genealogist) about a white guy that thought his surname was some sort of Italian name. The more he dug, the more he found out – it was African. Just a few generations earlier, all his ancestors were Africans in the Americas. It really doesn’t take much to change physical traits. It’s far beyond time to start letting go of the hurt and hate and start to heal. We are ALL hurting. We are ALL struggling. Appearance shouldn’t be part of that equation.

  • Jon_Roland

    No need to “leave the movement” in response to criticisms that come from outside it. As one who volunteers almost all of my waking hours to public service, I recognize that as a moral imperative, but I also strongly oppose any efforts to impose that morality using government coercion. It is not moral unless it is done freely. It is the Universe that is brutal. We humans can sometimes ameliorate part of that brutality for a few of our fellow human beings, but that should be done privately, not through government, except in matters like defense and courts of justice.

    We are entering the final stages of a process of the mechanization of all human labor, which means humans are becoming economically obsolete. That will bring intense misery, and calls for assistance, but ultimately there is nothing we can do about it. We are giving birth to our successors, as humans have always done. They just won’t be human.

  • Hey You

    Admittedly, I don’t know much about the way by which us white (actually, somewhat pinkish-white) people created an oppressive society. However, I do observe that a lot of non-white people want to get into this oppressive society. This doesn’t seem to make sense. But many things don’t make sense in this over politicalize world.

  • Mike in MI

    Wendy, great writing. I’m a “Mick” too with a similar background, and you really touched my heart. Don’t leave!

  • Mike in MI

    Wendy, I’m a “Mick” with a similar family story. You really struck a chord in my heart. Don’t leave!

  • 2prickit

    “[T]he movement that I’ve tried to call home is saying I am a brutal product of privilege.”

    “… [A] nation of nobodies, nowhere men without kin or community, tradition or culture, music or literature,” …
    And All Shall Equal Be—-Thomas Fleming

  • Dr Stephen Nordstrom

    Dear Wendy, as with many people here today I was moved by your letter to your father…also because my great grandparents came to Australia in the Second Potato Famine(McCoy, county Antrim).
    A Scottish poet Kathleen Raine( at least, Celtic) wrote a beautiful poem as though a letter from her mother long passed, which would be your father answering your letter.
    I think it was in her first book of poems:’Stone and Flower’.
    I’m in Sydney at the moment but go back to our home on Saturday and will post the poem here as soon as I return.
    I was very lucky in that I wrote a long letter of thanks to my parents one year before my father passed.
    Thank you again for your heart felt article.

  • jac

    Thank you for this column, Wendy! I wondered if you could provide more context or background on what started this left-leaning libertarian movement. I have my own theory based on work I’ve done in a particular area, but wondered what triggered this response from you. Again, thanks for this heart-rendering column.

    • jac

      heart-rending, that is.

  • Webforager

    Leaving the movement? Or maybe you’ve defined yourself too much with “the movement”. I don’t know. Only you can answer that. But, if so, maybe just a tweak of your perception to see yourself as like a bird singing it’s song high in the treetops. Cultivate those who sing back and cast out those who squawk. I’ve come to the conclusion that’s the best one can do in these circumstances. I see you as THE Wendy McElroy. Not, Wendy McElroy the libertarian. And your Voice is always welcome in my home…and often shared.

  • Earl of Isadore

    Wendy, the borg is moving to neutralize a threat by redefining aggression so as to make the core constituency of the NAP aggressors by their very existence, thus rendering them walking, talking, oxymorons. Labels such as thick, heavy and brutal only serve to twist the knife. The borg is very thorough and sees every project through to completion. When it is done, Libertarianism will mean nothing and will merely be a game piece in the great dialectic.

    Your Daddy loved you without regard to labels of any kind. He loved you for the real you, the you that beats your heart, grows your hair, giggles at splashing water and tickle feet. Any label you might adopt or that others sought to place on you had no effect on his love. Love yourself the same way and labels will mean to you what they meant to him – nothing at all.

    Remember that Ron Paul often says “people are not labels”. Relating to one’s self and the people around them simply as individual human beings without regard to labels is the only antidote to the creeping collectivist crud that is enveloping everything.

    You may want to consider simply not joining another group or movement. They are just mental constructs after all; devised by some other person for their own benefit and likely at your expense. Not joining does not preclude any sort of voluntary cooperation with any of the other individuals on earth but it will make you co-opt-proof.

    So is non-joiner simply another label and thus a receptor site for a borg probe? No, because you may at any time for your own reasons join, unjoin, join, to your heart’s content. This is your prerogative as a sovereign individual.

  • Gregory Barros

    Your characterization, Ms. McElroy; of the debates about thin and thick
    libertarianism, the humanitarians versus the brutalists; as “absurd and
    manufactured,” is right on the money.

    This contemptible contrivance warrants zero attention and consideration in
    my ledger.

    Political Correctness itself is a loathsome concept without foundation except
    as a vehicle for imposing the preferences of some self-anointed,
    self-appointed, elitist group of arrogant busybodies arrogating to themselves
    the right to dictate how others should think and presuming to monitor others
    for their compliance.

    Political Correctness has zero legitimacy ethically except among collectivists,
    worshipping at the altar of authority and seeking to circumscribe severely
    whatever discourse takes place.

    Political Correctness has no place in a genuinely free society where each
    individual acknowledges and respects the right of every individual to
    associate with whomever he chooses and to express himself freely and to
    pursue his right to life, liberty and property peacefully.

    You define who you are in accordance with your natural and inalienable
    right to do so without accounting for yourself or apologizing to “them.”

    What “they” call you is beside the point.

    If “they” mattered in the enterprise of discourse in the matter of freedom
    and liberty they wouldn’t have to resort to such trifling digressions as this
    specious humanist v. brutalist.

    And the proximate cause of your acute discomfit, this open-source
    software, is not even an issue a partisan of liberty. It is a simple matter
    of freedom of association.

    This open-source software market-place is, just as you suggest, as free
    a market as exists.

    Participants in this market do so freely, voluntarily engaging with other
    like-minded patrons and such engagement has nothing to do with color
    expect when malefactors, miscreants and hustlers choose to make it
    so for their own nefarious purposes.

    Minority types who want a piece of the open-source software action
    are free to choose to ante up the time and effort to get their respective
    pieces of that action or any other action they prefer.

    That few members of minority groups do so is the free market in action.
    Those who don’t are exercising their natural, inalienable rights not to
    choose to participate in that marketplace and it doesn’t matter why.

    There’s no natural law that demands that there be some kind of
    proportional representation among every minority group on our planet.

    Various con-artists, hustlers, panderers and other ne’er-do-wells
    representing themselves as libertarians are evidently busy creating
    controversy where there is none.

    Their tactic in this case is redolent of collectivist ethics: collective guilt
    over artificial/imagined/manufactured, essentially non-existent

    Such sensation and spectacle does generates heat while it attracts
    attention, but no light.

    The elegant simplicity of libertarianism is its non-aggression principle
    which has nothing to do with motivation. And nobody can ever be
    certain of another’s motive anyway so it’s a useless distraction to
    introduce motivation into matters of practical ethics except to complicate
    matters and ultimately provide cover for chicanery, duplicity, mendacity
    and skullduggery.

    Your credibility and prestige as a daughter and champion of liberty and
    peace is unimpeachable in my ledger.

    I trust you’ll tell “them” to go to hell and that you’ll continue your work
    on behalf of promoting the principles, now largely ignored, at the
    foundation of our nation: the rights of individuals, liberty, government
    of few, enumerated powers and peace.

  • Off Topic Tirade

    It is racist for those self indulgent guilt types to accuse libertarians of white privilege. This assumes that all libertarians are white. Wendy used the word absurd in the article, and I think it is important to retain the ability to laugh at the absurd, no matter how tragic the comedy is.

    When I am incorrectly accused of being white (usually at theatlantic.com) in an Internet discussion, I know the discussion is over. It is discouraging to be sure, but it also encourages me to get back to work or go outdoors. I might be good for one final response but, it usually does not matter for the PC troll. They will just accuse me of lying. It is insulting and frustrating without a doubt, but there is nothing to be done outside of appreciating the irony. The only healthy outlet is to laugh and recognize the absurdity.

    I think it is worth noting that many of the PC police who wield accusatory racism klaxons and white privilege sirens are white people themselves. What are they playing at here? What do they know about the forms of discrimination they speak of? It may not be fair to psychoanalyze their motives, but I usually conclude that their actions arise out of self indulgent guilt produced by their closeted racist shame.

    Idiocy is worldwide and knows no bounds. The PC guilt police can not comprehend the world outside of their paradigm. They are well insulated by their cognitive dissonance blinders. Ralph Ellison’s ‘The Invisible Man’ approaches the issue, but consider that his character had a definable identity in the concrete sense that it was a reflection of the author’s experiences. Today the word mulatto has been co-opted by Obama or those that attach importance to his race. The term is now completely meaningless, not that it ever meant much in the common lexicon. Try explaining that you have no identity category or that you have been denied one. This exceeds invisibility. The bigotry comes at every angle or they just call you foreign. When you think for yourself and come to conclusions which do not fit with the popular liberal orthodoxy, bigotry comes from the ‘compassionate’ guilt set. Again, idiocy knows no bounds.

    It was enough to make me want to expatriate. At least when I am called foreign now, it is accurate. Moreover people seem to like foreign people in some locales. It can even carry an air of respectability. As long as I avoid the ‘compassionate’ aid worker expats who say: “but you don’t look like you’re from the US”

    Well, there it is. I’ve gone off topic because I trip on identity as I have been denied one. Incidentally, I use opensource software for profit and would never consider anything else.

    For a look at the extremes PC critiques of opensource & tech culture nothing is richer than C+=. Google “C plus equality” for the full tragicomedy.


  • Henry James

    Thank you Wendy for a heart felt piece. ‘Genuine-ness’ is a rarity and often derided quality though one I admire. For my own part I feel strongly that ultimately theoretical constructs and whatever course of logical arguments or ideologies people follow usually dissolve when we engage with the actuality of living or being who we are. No ‘ism’ can hope to account for the experience of a life.

    • Good. I wondered whether the piece went “over the top” as I rarely speak of very personal matters. Good. And thanks for the post, HJ.

  • Myron Goodrum

    Hi Wendy! Really sorry about your druthers with that group. My heart goes out to you on the loss of your father; I lost my dad when I was 39, and it was just as devastating. I still find it hard not to be overrun with emotion when I think of him. He was my hero in so many ways…mainly he taught me about honesty and self worth. I miss my dad too!

    If Simon Black and Andrew Henderson have taught me anything, its been to “go where you are treated best”. Wendy, go to where you are treated best…M

    • Interestingly, Myron, as a result of the article(s), the druthers have been pretty much smoothed over in the sense of any bad or personal treatment. I still disagree with the ideas but that’s an entirely different matter. Your good wishes for my wellbeing are much appreciated. Thank you.

  • “Left” v. “right,” “thick” v. “thin” and “humanitarian” v. “brutalist” are three completely different distinctions.

    • Brad R

      As I understand it: “thin” libertarianism essentially demands that individuals adhere to the non-aggression principle; no more, no less. “Thick” libertarianism holds that libertarianism imposes, on its adherents, additional requirements of morality or beneficence; that these follow from the NAP. Charles Johnson offered four “connections” for these additional commitments — including “strategic” requirements — though he left open the question of precisely what those commitments would be. http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/libertarianism-through-thick-and-thin

      “Humanitarian libertarianism” is an attempt to spell out at least some of those “thick” commitments. And “brutalism” is the claim that those adhering to thin, rather than thick, libertarianism do so out of racism, or sexism, or to be “antisocial” — with the not-very-subtle implication that that is the *only* reason why one would be a “thin” libertarian.

      Is that a fair summary?

    • I would say they are different distinctions. One is to do with social values. Another is to do with whether one considers their social values as a part (whether necessary or merely conducive/strategic) of libertarianism. And the last has to do with why people are drawn to libertarianism in the first place and which visions better draw more people to the ideology/movement. However, there is overlap. For example, a brutalist will tend more to be a thin libertarian and a rightist, although there is no inherent reason why they couldn’t be a thick libertarian and a leftist, although it would be almost unheard of.

  • Stacey

    It seems no matter the fundamental good in anything anymore, someone or some thing enters into it and mucks it up with terms and labels, which for now, I see as a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of liberty, of voluntarism; I suppose I could be wrong, but either one is an advocate for government force and theft, or one is not. To me, there is no thick or thin. Racism; white privilege? Pffftt…another fundamental misunderstanding, but which has been a very useful one to use if one chooses to create and perpetuate division among us. I do my best to educate, but when the name calling and labels come into play, I tend to thank the person for the exchange, wish them well, and dust myself off (which really means letting go of the anger I might feel at the person, lol) and I move on. It has been very frustrating a lot of times, but I remind myself of where I was in my own mind for so many years before my eyes were opened, and I remind myself of those in liberty who go before me, and you happen to be one of them. I started following you a year or so ago and am learning so much from your writings; it is very valuable to me and I thank you for that, no matter your decision.

    • Hi, Stacey. One place I would never leave is the Daily Bell. Anthony gives an amazing amount of freedom to his writers to vent and experiment with ideas without conforming to an agenda with bullet points on “do” and “don’t.” And thanks for liking my work.

      • Guest

        I’m a relative newcomer to the ideas and i have much to unlearn from my years of indoctrination; there are moments when I have felt I’m gradually emerging from what I liken to over 50 years of a coma-like state. I know very little, but I am learning and I share what little I know with others as I am able. I’m very glad to know you’ll be staying with the Daily Bell. Thanks again.

  • jmafc

    Hello Wendy, it just so happens that I read Jeffrey Tucker’s “Against Libertarian Brutalism” essay only yesterday, after seeing some people being accused of being brutalists, apparently by Tucker himself or someone in his “entourage”. The essay appears to be too abstract for my taste since it only analogizes “brutalism” with brutalist architecture (an uncommon term unless you’re into art and architecture) and doesn’t explain who is to be considered a brutalist libertarian either by giving names or by more concrete examples. However, my interpretation was that for Tucker a brutalist is one who goes no further than “the most primitive postulates” and in his opinion, this translates not to the non-aggression principle (at least not explicitly) but to “live your life as you please and don’t worry about the preferences of others”. According to this, if someone acts as a racist towards others, the libertarian brutalist will do nothing, whereas the libertarian humanitarian will presumably try to persuade the racist, by non-violent ways of course, to change his or her opinion or behaviour. I see nothing in Tucker’s exposition that says if you’re white, you’re a member of an opressor class.

    On the other hand, I have been aware of Charles Johnson’s “Libertarianism Through Thick and Thin” at least for a couple of years, but recall reading it in detail in the past year. My take on Johnson’s call for “thick” libertarianism as a preferable approach is that the NAP and wanting to reduce or eliminate government intervention into our daily lives don’t go far enough. Thick libertarianism attempts to recognise that there are other “institutions” or collective behaviours that aggress against individuals: for example, racism, slavery, patriarchy, homophobia and even top-down, management-labor or other hierarchical relations. Nevertheless, I don’t think that thick libertarianism advocates that if you happen to be a member of one or more of those groups, e.g., a white, male supervisor in a large corporation, that you should leave the movement, feel ashamed of yourself and do penance for the past sins of your predecessors.

    If you haven’t read it, I think Sheldon Richman’s article at http://fff.org/explore-freedom/article/tgif-libertarianism-rightly-conceived/ is a short but good clarification on the subject (although it doesn’t mention brutalism).

    • Hello back at you, jmafc. I have read Sheldon’s piece — he a good friend — and I find it to be the best and most sympathetic interpretation of left libertarians. I have points of disagreement with the article but a civil disagreement is never objectionable. One problem is that the subcategories within left libertarianism merge and diverge on quite a few issues but a surprising number of them are starting to come directly out for highly statist ‘solutions’ to social problems. Below is part of a response I wrote to Earl whose post is a few above your own,

      “One of my real hesitations about left libertarians — and I know there are different subcategories but I see this proclivity in most if not all of them — is what seems to be an increasing willingness to edge closer to using the state (or force) to control peaceful but objectionable behavior. Some have stated that creating negative consequences for others is a form of aggression. It is often difficult to nail down what is precisely being said but I expect refusing to hire someone or rent to him creates a negative consequence for that person. And, if it is a form of force, it becomes “libertarian” to prevent such discrimination. Also I am seeing more and more of those on the left coming straight up
      with using the state or force. Matt Zwolinski — who is very nice and bright fellow — just argued for a BIG idea on Cato Unbound. He suggests a Basic Income Guarantee for pretty much anyone who asks, no conditions attached. Also the Bleeding Heart libertarian site has a piece advocating licensing parents…it argues that such licenses are consistent with libertarianism.”

      You write, “My take on Johnson’s call for ‘thick’ libertarianism as a preferable approach is that the NAP and wanting to reduce or eliminate government intervention into our daily lives don’t go far enough. Thick libertarianism attempts to recognise that there are other “institutions” or collective behaviours that aggress against individuals: for example,
      racism, slavery, patriarchy, homophobia and even top-down, management-labor or other hierarchical relations. Nevertheless, I don’t think that thick libertarianism advocates that if you happen to be a member of one or more of those groups, e.g., a white, male supervisor in a large corporation, that you should leave the movement, feel ashamed of yourself and do penance for the past sins of your predecessors.”

      Yes. On the point you describe, Johnson basically takes the dialectic approach developed by Chris Sciabarra…and he once was literally Chris’ student at university (as I recall). If he had stopped there, then I would be merely confused. The confusion: I don’t know a libertarian who disagrees with setting a broader context in order to better understand and better argue for freedom. But Johnson and others go considerably further. For example, I find the emphasis on social justice with a fair strict definition of what “justice” is to be very dangerous. Outside of behavior that violates the NAP, I believe every person should discover what is true and what is just for themselves.

      BTW, you may be incorrect about left libertarians NOT advocating that people be thrown out of the movement. Or, rather, *some* of them seem to advocate it. Perhaps you are unaware of the Facebook petition effort to boycott and marginalize Stefan Molyneaux because of his incorrect attitudes toward women, feminism….and I think child raising was thrown in as well. (BTW, I am generally familiar with his child raising views but I have no problem with his views on women and feminism.) The cry to ostracism was signed by a great many left libertarians, including Johnson, if I remember correctly. Some of the names rather surprised me.

      • jmafc

        Hello again Wendy,

        (BTW you may know me as jma/Joe from your forums and from emails). I’m not familiar with the FB petition, but now you seem to be putting words in my mouth: I didn’t talk about left libertarians (except for mentioning Charles) and I didn’t say that thick libertarians do not advocate that people be thrown out of the movement, rather that they don’t advocate that if someone is a member of the less desirable classes, e.g., whites, like you, and even myself (although like your husband, I may be considered Hispanic), that they should exit pronto, on their own, as if some pariah. Nevertheless, IIRC you once wrote a piece on ostracism and/or boycotting for FFF suggesting they are valid libertarian approaches (or something along those lines).

        You seem to be implying that you don’t quite agree with Stefan’s child raising views, but are OK with his views on women and feminism. I’m not that familiar with the latter, but what I do have a problem with is his absolutist stance (someone may call that “brutalist”) on disassociating oneself from people who hold statist views, or that may have caused you some harm in the past, even if they’re close family members like your parents (it reminds me of objectivists trying to convince Murray Rothbard to leave his wife because of her religious views).

        On open source and sexism, I am also a member of that movement and I don’t think the concerns about insufficient female representation are much different from those voiced by LP members or college STEM teachers. But the open source movement is not a homogeneous blob: some communities are trying harder than others in attracting female participation, e.g., PyLadies in the Python communitiy, or setting some guidelines for conduct at conferences (which tend to be attended by young programmers with less than optimal social skills).


        • Hello again, Joe. I apologize if I misinterpreted your words. Being rushed means making more mistakes than I normally do…and this is a rushed weekend. I do not think left libertarians believe undesirable classes should exit the movement, and I’ve certainly never heard any LL say that. And, yes, you are correct that I wrote a piece for FFF on the effectiveness of boycott as a strategy for correcting specific wrongs — not a gender identity or any biological trait, but an actual wrong committed by one individual against another. I referenced the source of the word “boycott” as coming from Colonel Boycott — an England land manager who badly treated the indigenous Irish people who worked on the farm, many of whom were wrongfully evicted from it just years before. Boycott is a long-respected strategy for both left and right… and in the nonviolence movement in general.

          No, I have no current problem with Stefan’s child raising views because — as I indicated in the response to you — I don’t know what they are. Enjoy your weekend, Joe.

          • jmafc

            Then there’s some misunderstanding/typo because in your first response you said “BTW, I am generally familiar with his child raising views” and now you’re saying “I don’t know what they are”. Hoping that you have a less rushed weekend!

          • Yep. That is a typo. I meant that I was generally *un*familiar…

      • jmafc

        On Zwolinski, BHL, etc., I think the problem is that as the movement grows, it becomes harder to keep the messages homogeneous and close to the plumb-line. I recall that as a result of Harry Browne’s candidacy, the LP had a significant influx of more right-leaning, conservative members (they had had mass mailings to National Review and similar lists apparently) and I was amazed to read some of the unlibertatian proposals and commentary in the Letters to the Editor of the LP News. And then of course, the LP elected Bob Barr as their candidate (who had been a prominent drug warrior not that long ago).

        • I agree with what you say re: the difficulty of keeping a plumb-line but the Zwolinski piece is troublesome because 1) it is not a deviation but a direct contradiction of the plumb-line, and 2) it was published by Cato. Perhaps, as the movement becomes diluted, it becomes more necessary for plumb-liners to do and publish the analysis. Thanks for the post.

  • Sean Rosenthal

    I wrote an article on the thick v. thin debate you might like. http://studentsforliberty.org/europe/2014/05/01/thick-and-thin-libertarian-utopia/ It largely corresponds with what you’re saying, and I haven’t seen anybody try to respond compellingly to it even though it circulated reasonably well.

    • Brad R

      Hi Sean, thanks for posting that link. I found it an interesting contribution, and I agree with much of it.

      Where I may disagree is that I think, in your section 2.B, that you are conflating (a) the intellectual paths people take to reach libertarianism, with (b) the defining characteristic of libertarianism. And I think such a defining characteristic is necessary; otherwise Barack Obama could claim to be “libertarian.” In your introduction you suggest the definition “libertarianism refers to the conclusion that the state should be substantially limited or abolished,” but I fear that is too vague. (How much is “substantially limited”?)

      I have yet to find a better defining characteristic than “self-ownership and the non-aggression principle.” I’ve spoken with Stirnerites and Randians and ex-hippies and others, and while we might disagree on the underlying basis, we can usually agree on those two principles. And frankly, if I can’t get a fellow-traveler to agree that (a) he is the exclusive owner of his body, and (b) he has no right to initiate force against me, then I don’t think I want that person as a fellow-traveler.

      To use the example of your vegan friend, for whom libertarianism appeals “because compulsory taxation unethically compels her to finance the meat industry.” If she can then generalize from that observation to the notion that no one should be compelled to finance, through taxation, activities with which they disagree, then she has begun to embrace the non-aggression principle. If, on the other hand, she opposes subsidies to the meat industry but would support subsidies to vegan producers, then she is merely supporting her special interest. I would argue that the former is a libertarian view, and the latter is not….and the distinction is *not* the journey through which she adopted a libertarian view, but rather, the NAP.

      • Sean Rosenthal

        It’s definitely true that if you just come to the conclusion that the state is subsidizing the wrong special interests and needs to subsidize your preference, like shifting from meat subsidies to vegan subsidies, then you’re not being libertarian. You just want your special interest to win.

        But like, if someone thinks that the state is a useful and justifiable institutional arrangement for providing certain public goods and/or that it should subsidize education to the poor and/or should generally resolve a very small number of problems in society that seem difficult to solve otherwise, then I’d call that person libertarian because, for whatever reason, they broadly support individual liberty – both economic and social. If I were writing a super specific philosophical article, I would probably call a lot of that classically liberal rather than libertarian (as John Tomasi does in Free Market Fairness), but at least in the common vernacular language I would say that person was a natural ally in the same tradition with very similar thoughts and I would deem them libertarian.

        Regarding how “substantially limited,” I’m not sure. Maybe you could determine it based on how the person assigns burden of proof. If the presumption is broad protection of economic and personal liberty with narrow exceptions, then the person sees the burden of proof as relatively strongly on the side of individual liberty. A mentality like that sounds like the an endorsement of being substantially limited.

        But like, I know objectivists who are extremely hawkish on the military, who support bombing people in third world nations to oblivion, but who basically don’t think the state should do anything other than the limited night-watchman functions of police and military. If you can support what I consider a pretty oppressive and misguided use of the military and be deemed libertarian (and I think rightly deemed libertarian), then I wouldn’t cut off the definition to people who support narrow uses of the state that are much less violent as long as it generally is a substantial limitation of state action and broad protection of liberty.

        • Brad R

          Here we disagree. I maintain that someone who “thinks that the state is a useful and justifiable institutional arrangement for providing certain public goods and/or that it should subsidize education to the poor” has no business calling himself a libertarian. (He has the right to call himself whatever he wants, of course; but I think that others should not go along with the charade.) And such a person is inexcusably naive if he thinks that such uses of the state will remain limited.

          Likewise, those who “support bombing people in third world nations to oblivion” have lost all valid claim to the term “libertarian.” G.W.Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a revealing moment — it separated the faux libertarians from those who consistently adhere to the NAP. I certainly stopped calling those closet militarists “libertarian,” and I think many others did too.

          Almost everyone, it seems, has a pet project or a desired end that he wants to use the state to achieve. Such people should call themselves “statists.” The fact that such people are insinuating themselves into the libertarian movement, through the left/thick door, is bad enough; that they can call themselves “libertarians,” and get a free pass on that, is deeply disturbing.

          • Libertymike

            There is nothing more utopian than “limited government”.

    • Good morning, Sean. I actually read your article before writing my own. I found your observations on strategy to be particularly thought provoking and I hope people from this site click over. I also like very much the distinction you make: “Promoting a culture of tolerance and respect requires a very different sets of justifications than promoting a society that protects liberty. Why? Because one component of liberty is the right for people to make bad decisions. The determination of what is a bad decision, of what should be respected as wise and what should be condemned as imprudent, is outside the scope of libertarianism.”

      I am an anarchist and so I would go much further than you do toward reducing the state. I’d like it to be zero but I Do understand anarchism is not the same as libertarianism but is a subset. I am rather like the defining aspect of libertarianism to be the NAP and I do argue from self-ownership but I am zealous only the NAP. If someone arrives at that conclusion while dismissing self-ownership, that’s fine with me. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Thanks for the post.

      • Sean Rosenthal

        I’m an anarchist on some days of the week, ahaha. I’m glad you liked it, and thanks for the reply.

  • Earl of Isadore

    Prejudging someone on the basis of superficial similarities to some group only really becomes a problem when government force is part of the equation. The civil rights, gay rights, womens’ rights, etc. movements are efforts to have some government officials counteract problems created by other government officials or by those who operate formal or informal government enforced monopolies. This is the scourge called “the fire brigade made up of arsonists,” or “the gang of arsonists who also work as firemen putting out their own fires.”

    What is promoted as government angels preventing citizens from mistreating each is actually one group of officials acting to prevent or limit the misdeeds of another group of officials or crony monopolists.

    Racism is not an especially attractive part of human nature, but it is only a specific example of a universal human tendency. Bigotry is exploited to demonize any “other” group and regulatory democracy would be impossible without it. The idea that government is the solution to bigotry is laughable. It is only the knowledge that government officials ignore or even participate in violent bigotry that creates a culture of violence based on race.

    People value each other more or less in a constantly changing dynamic for all kinds of reasons. To enlist government interference in some categories of valuation is a kind of price fixing. A frequent Daily Bell theme is that much (all?) of governing amounts to price fixing, which is always a net negative.

    As violent acts between ordinary citizens decrease, the definition of aggression is being broadened to include the use of certain words. If the trend continues, one day actionable aggression may include certain thoughts. Since laying on of hands and actual violent acts by officials against ordinary citizens is increasing the net effects of the two trends are ominous.

    We can only hope that someday people will first ask if a problem is caused by government officials misusing their monopoly on force, instead of hiring arsonists to put out their own fires.

    • Good morning

      Earl of Isidore. I am in general agreement with your statement that problems such as racism “only really becomes a problem when government force is part of the equation. My main point of disagreement is the word “only” because I believe it can be a significant social problem even done without government — that is, privately. But it would be self-correcting and not epidemic.

      You wrote, “People value each other more or less in a constantly changing dynamic for all kinds of reasons. To enlist government interference in some categories of valuation is a kind of price fixing.” Agreed…and, frankly, that is a terrific formulation of the point…one that had not occurred to me.

      One of my real hesitations about left libertarians — and I know there are different subcategories but I see this proclivity in most if not all of them — is what seems to be an increasing willingness to edge closer to using the state (or force) to control peaceful but objectionable behavior. Some have stated that creating negative consequences for others is a form of aggression. It is often difficult to nail down what is precisely being said but I expect refusing to hire someone or rent to him creates a negative consequence for that person. And, if it is a form of force, it becomes “libertarian” to prevent such discrimination.

      Also I am seeing more and more of those on the left coming straight up with using the state or force. Matt Zwolinski — who is very nice and bright fellow — just argued for a BIG idea on Cato Unbound. He suggests a Basic Income Guarantee for pretty much anyone who asks, no conditions attached. Also the Bleeding Heart libertarian site has a piece advocating licensing parents…it argues that such licenses are consistent with libertarianism.

      • Earl of Isadore

        Hi Wendy. Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

        The situation you see developing is irrational. People who ostensibly define themselves as being against aggression between ordinary people are willing to exempt and even encourage official acts of force. If this was not bad enough, the same people are broadening the definition of aggression to include a variety of other acts between ordinary people which are not in any way related to physical force or violence.

        Actual violence (by officials) is being proposed as a cure for non-violent interactions between citizens. This is madness. Since aggression no longer exclusively describes unprovoked or non-consensual actual physical violence, there is no limit to what behaviors can be considered aggression and no conceptual limit to the size and invasiveness of the state apparatus needed to protect people against it.

        Libertarianism is coming to mean its opposite.

        • standard leftist tactics

          Libertarianism is coming to mean its opposite.

          It used to be called “liberalism”… (and still is nearly everywhere outside of the Anglosphere)
          How many years do you think will pass before these tactics force us to another rename?

  • Dr Stephen Nordstrom


    Look, beloved child, into my eyes, see there
    Your self, mirrored in that living water
    From whose deep pools all images of earth are born.
    See, in the gaze that holds you dear
    All that you were, are, and shall be forever.
    In recognition beyond time and seeming
    Love knows the face that each soul turns towards heaven.

    —Kathleen Raine.

    • The poem is lovely, poignant and from a poetess with whom I am unfamiliar. I love discoveries like this. Thank you.

  • Good Saturday to everyone. Sorry for being AWOL but I’ll be checking and answering post whenever I have a few minutes today. And get out in the sunshine at least once today!

    • bionic mosquito

      Ms. McElroy

      “Last night, I contemplated my exit from a movement that considers me to be a “brutalist” after years of unpaid work promoting nonviolence.”
      Needless to say I do not know you as well as your father does. I have no idea how he will reply.
      As meaningless as my comment might be to you during this obviously very difficult time, I hope you decide to stay fully engaged. While I cannot speak to the motivations of specific individuals in this conversation, it is well-known that there is an institutional desire to purge Rothbard from libertarianism.
      Rothbard will eventually win, but only if there are eloquent voices such as yours engaged in the discussion.
      Kind regards

      • Thank you, bionic. I thought your deconstruction of the BIG proposal was masterful. Well done.

        • Libertymike

          I did as well.

      • FEEuser

        My two cents here. A Libertarianism without Murray Rothbard is no Libertarianism at all.

    • geek

      As a basement-dwelling hacker geek, I react to sunshine pretty much like a vampire. Thanks but no thanks.


  • terry_freeman

    Thank you! I am supposed to “check my privilege” because my skin is white, but my grandfather (a captain of the Irish Republican Army) certainly was not “privileged” with respect to the Brits or the Irish Protestants. When he came to America, he and my father discovered the meaning of “N.I.N.A” – No Irish Need Apply. Such privilege! My dad explained the origin of the laws against opium, which used to be the painkiller of choice among Asians, giving them a competitive advantage when working on the railroads. “It was hard work,” he said. “The Chinese could smoke a bit of opium and work all day, and we were hurting.”

    Even stranger is when Asians are told to “check their privilege.” It wasn’t until 1965 that the Chinese Exclusion Act was finally undone. (An earlier “repeal” set a tiny quote of one hundred immigrants from China per year. This was up from zero. )

    BTW, there are lots of Asian contributors to Open Source – both software and hardware. But the gatekeepers are still pretending that open-source hardware is “stealing” something from others.


    • You are most welcome, Terry. I, too, am sick of Irish people and Asians who came over to North America before or during the war being demonized and legally penalized through programs like affirmative action admission at most universities…and largely in the name of slavery which they did not create and (except for rare exceptions) did not participate in. I *would* say that but I’m actually sick at *all* white people being demonized for actions they did not take. Hayek believed there was no such thing as social justice; there was only justice toward and between individuals. He said it was like calling a stone “immoral.” The term “social” and “justice” simply do not belong together.

      • FEEuser

        Good point about individuals. What is a “society” but a collection of individuals? But there is NO “collective opinion” about anything. Nor is there “social justice.” Unfortunately, our language is full of these meaningless, but powerful propaganda buzz words, “public speech” which befuddles, befouls, and pollutes human thought.
        Is there a haven on earth free from this verbal garbage? I think not. We are going to have to face up to it and do battle with the propagandists by becoming BETTER propagandists in order to rid ourselves of this bilge.

  • Pharmafaery

    No minorities in open source software? Funny, the minority of minorities (trans people) is represented rather heavily in OSS. I personally have been involved since the mid 90’s…. and I have worked with women and men, and people of all walks of life in Open Source computing…

    Now I prefer the BSD (the most libertarian of all licenses), but to say there is no minority representation is wrong.

    • Brad R

      I’m truly glad to hear that. I know that Joseph Reagle has cited a study indicating only 1.1 percent of open-source developers are women. http://www.firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4291/3381 Alas, one limitation I face, as a solitary developer, is that I have no first-hand knowledge by which to evaluate that estimate. (I did have the privilege, at an Ontario Linux Fest a few years ago, of hearing presentations by Dru Lavigne, Emma Jane Hogbin, and Leigh Honeywell, so I know the number is greater than zero.)

      • Pharmafaery

        Yes, I have known Dru for many years 🙂 – also don’t forget some of the giants of Systems Administration who have made Open Source contributions – Evi Nemeth, Aeleen Frisch, Margo Seltzer….

      • Pharmafaery

        I also think that different areas of Open Source software development attract women – I was on the core team for a mailing list manager (Ecartis), out of the Core team, 2 of us were women. The BSDs while OVERWHELMINGLY male dominated, were very respectful and held women to the same criteria – if you could code, you were mentored, and later became a committer, if so interested. Skill and learning were much more a part of the culture, because they came from academia… and several BSD luminaries were part of the LGBT community. I found Linux and GNU people a lot less accepting in terms of these things though, and that makes up the bulk of the OSS community I guess. I found it interesting that the article mentioned Stallman… I have never met a more sexist man in my life.

      • I am heartened to hear of your experience with trans people working in/with OSS because the sources that address “women/minorities in OSS” almost universally decry the absence thereof. I don’t know if you are so inclined but you are in perfect position to write an article of your experience which seems to call this into question the overview of OSS being provided by the PC crowd. BTW, I investigated the study cited above (thanks for providing a link, Brad), and the study should be approached with caution. It appears to date back to 2002. It appears to be a SLOP (a self-selecting opinion poll) in which people who are usually online write in whatever they want as “fact” and no one, no one verifies it. No wonder the study led strange results, like there were more OSS developers living in France than in America. Implausible in the extreme, When I dig into the data being used to promote a political agenda, I usually find the data to be so skewed as to be worthless. One anecdote from you, Siobhán, is worth a great deal more.

    • Martel733

      There is one restricting factor she didn’t mention and that’s IQ. Of course when the Man who won a Nobel Prize for Discovering DNA DR James Watson pointed out IQ is mostly genetic, the howling monkeys of the left threw feces at him.

  • Foo Quuxman


    I don’t know if you have seen this already, but I think it would help you put a name and structure on the insanity: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122

    • Kafkatrapping. Thanks for the link, Foo. It is a brilliant article.

  • Foo Quuxman

    Oh, duurrrrr how could I forget this one: http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/girls-and-software

    • Brad R

      Wow. What an awesome article…and an awesome person. Thanks for posting that link. – Brad (Wendy’s husband)

  • Maria Folsom

    Thank you! I am in your shoes and feel the same way. You speak my heart and mind.

    • You are most welcome, Maria. Good companions are not a luxury but a necessity of life.

  • Syzygy999

    I’m a NAPster, a libertarian who thinks libertarianism, definitionally, begins and ends with the NAP. All else is elaboration,application or marketing, which are fine and even necessary for those wanting to uphold a libertarian vision of society and to move toward making it a reality. What I see happening, though, is people trying to smuggle their own “add-ons” into the definition, where they do not belong.

  • UnwillingContributor

    I’m not really sure what “movement” you’re on about. Real libertarians, as you well know, are like … well, leading or managing us is like herding cats or pushing on a string. I see nothing to join and nothing to leave; only certain truths that I believe in because of what I know of history, psychology, sociology, etc.: sustainable society can only develop in the absence of aggressive coercion.

    This conclusion, as you know, leads to belief in a free market (a real free market, not this crony-regulated nonsense) and a few other facets of socio-economic intercourse (including abstention from social and economic intercourse).

    All of this leads me to associate with and listen to some people, who talk more of this sense than others do (acknowledging and allowing for the fact that no one is perfect), and who refrain from systematic idiocy. And if I hear/see someone blabbering nonsense and calling it intellectual gold, I call it. I may be diplomatic, if I think they’re merely misguided, or I may pillory them if I become convinced that they’re corrupt or malicious.

    By refusing to be organized in the traditional sense of regimented, charismatically led, etc., real libertarians are the true e pluribus that unums, a wholesome chaos that forms a “unified” defense of freedom and truth.

    Isn’t it interesting that they could have called it “hard line,” or “purisitc” or some other relatively benign word, but called it “brutalist” instead, an obviously charged word that perhaps some propagandist for control freaks gave them?

  • Thank you. You’ve just clearly enunciated why I have already left Libertarianism. My only issue with this article is that you feel the need to justify yourself to Progressives because your (and mine too, incidentally) Irish ancestors were considered lower than chattel slaves. This isn’t good enough for Progs because you supposedly enjoy “white privilege”. Never try and justify yourself to those who cannot think for themselves, they only emote. Never argue with Progs. Arguing with them resembles playing chess with a pigeon. They will strut around, knock over pieces, crap on the board, and declare victory (Because “Patriarchy, White Privilege, Fascism, Critical Race Theory, I win!”) In short, treat them as Alinsky would have them treat you.

  • simplethinking

    Great post.

    Also, don’t forget that Irish were the key victims of the white-slave trade.


  • normajeana

    Who are these people who wish to bring in this political correctness BS to the liberty movement? I cannot fathom that those of us who have fought so hard to bring libertarian ideas to the world could just go down without a good, hard fight… not a physical fight of course, but a fight of words and ideas- and kick those left- leaning bovine excrement con-artists back to the rock out from under which they slithered. They are NOT libertarians- not in ANY universe where free minds accept the concept of freedom- which is for everyone of every age, race, gender and nationality. Do not leave the movement that has taken so much of our sweat and tears… make THEM leave. They do not belong carrying the banner of liberty because they have no concept of what it really is. All of you who once embraced the liberating concept of self- ownership- why are you allowing these NON libertarians to dictate what libertarianism is? Whether they are from the left or the right- if they don’t accept the basis premise of liberty – based on the individual- and not their race, gender, sexual persuasion, occupation, or whatever other nonsense these political parasites drag with them into the libertarian party- they are NOT libertarians.

    • bilejones

      They should be beaten senseless every time they raise their heads.
      (speaking rhetorically, of course)

    • FEEuser

      Who are they? They are propagandists. It’s easy for most of us to dismiss them; after all, they ARE wrong, aren’t they? And we know that they are certainly NOT Libertarians, don’t we?

      However, I notice that Wendy wisely has not dismissed them. But she is wavering about how to respond to their efforts or what to do if their anti-libertarian disinformation gains traction and puts the REAL Libertarians to flight. But we all should have known that when Libertarianism finally started to gain traction it would be attacked by the power elite. The latter have fearsome weapons with which to do this.

      The primary weapon of the power elite is propaganda. They have vast resources and endless amounts of money to carry out this dirty business. They also have the cooperation of the mainstream news media, academe, the public schools, crony corporations, and other confederates. They ARE powerful. And now they are closing ranks and jabbing at us with their poison darts. That hurts.

      Obviously, they are trying to demoralize us, as well as divide us from each other with hurtful, petty, fallacious, arguments, which get us to quarrelling with each other, and which create dissension and irritation among our ranks. They are also trying to discredit the movement among the general public. So, they constantly paint Libertarians as “kooks” and “cranks.”

      Their goal is to neutralize Libertarianism. They hope that it will eventually fade away from the stage of history amidst the masses of lies and distortions which so many people will never be able to sort out, never to be seen or heard from again.

      There is currently nothing stopping Libertarians from fighting back. Are they discouraged because they do not have billions to spend on propaganda? Now that we have the Internet, we do not need them! We have our own electronic soap boxes, and can, therefore, reach MILLIONS where before we only reached a few. That makes us powerful, and able to undermine the current agenda of the power elite.

  • Kennon Gilson

    Meanwhile, for encouraging info on the good work worldwide of over 8 MM L/libertarians and LIO Fans, see the http://www.libertarianinternational.org which sure isn’t being influenced by this ( and I admit I’m still learning, here) semi-Marxist silliness. The purpose here is to reverse the analysis from ‘coercive systems covered-up by feel-good campaigns’ to ‘you don’t feel as we do so you’re coercive/ we can coerce you’. Looks like the old bait-and-switch story to me. If these guys could IMPOSE Libertarianism as the latest thing, they would.

  • Martel733

    Lots of poor Asians found their way into tech jobs not just whites. Oh wait you are talking about open source the best comparison would be to look at charity medical missions and the total lack of non Asian minorities volunteering there.

  • dc.sunsets

    Four observations:
    1. Rhetoric that employs synonyms for “good guys” and “bad guys” isn’t intended to initiate dialogue; it is an open incitement (“we humanitarians are the good guys, you people who hold the principled view are “brutalist” bad guys.”)
    2. The purveyors of this psychobabble are clearly arguing in favor of at least feminized “soft coercion” as a means to achive different ends, and such back-stabbing, catty, whisper-insults-behind-the-hand crap should be met with open derision.
    3. It is finally becoming less taboo to openly acknowledge that race and culture differentials in representation in occupations, wealth, and crime are far from entirely due to “racism,” and this new openness has those who embrace a “universe revolves around the Earth” denial of reality in apoplexy.
    4. Socionomic theory holds that as endogenous social mood waxes negative, people find all sorts of previously unknown reasons to form into groups, sandbag their positions and go to war (rhetorical or open) against those they “other.” Social mood topped in 2000 and has worked lower in fits and starts ever since. We see polarization and disunity growing everywhere; get used to it, it’s only going to increase.

  • Dear Wendy,

    I have worked with you for several years, and it’s painful to see you dragged down emotionally by casual tossers of the “privilege” accusation.

    I investigated this kind of thought carefully for two years in grad school. As far as I can tell, the truly Orwellian claim that one can be racist because of one’s skin colour is a twisted descendant of Gramscian thought, itself a twisted descendant of Marxist thought. The concepts are premised on the assumption that humans belong in groups, and that what’s really real in society is the relative power of groups (see also, “class struggle”), not the actual thoughts and actions of individual human beings.

    In other words, the whole discussion is based on a collectivist intellectual error.

    Yes, yes, yes, genuine racism is alive in the minds of many, and it is still harming people today. Yes, yes, yes, governments have created and exacerbated racial divisions by claiming to favor first one group and then another (while generally harming everyone in the process, albeit very unequally).

    No, no, no, the resulting social and cultural bloodsport does not have to entangle every great political writer in hurtful and fundamentally unrefutable accusations of racism or privilege.

    Let the dogs bark. Keep your head high. Get back to what you do best.

  • jneilschulman

    Dear Wendy — as SEK3 might have put it, “Dear Ally,”

    A few days ago as a comment on Jeff Tucker’s article at http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/against-libertarian-brutalism I wrote,

    “Libertarianism at its essence is about nothing
    more than objecting to force being used to compel others to commit
    their lives and property to your cause. Beyond
    that libertarianism is silent — and should be, or else it merely
    becomes a requirement to add esthetic fetishes to the definition of
    libertarian and exclude those who decline to adopt the fetishes”. — J. Neil Schulman

    I no longer think of the libertarian movement as something we are losing. I think of the libertarian movement is something we still have to build.


    • Hello, J.Neil. Your voice carries more weight than most with me on this issue because you were SEK3’s lieutenant for so many years, and he is cited as a source of left libertarianism by many. You know, as well as I do, that SEK3 would be on the frontlines opposing left libertarianism. The damnable thing is that I’ve been intrigued by much of that sub-movement’s approach for a few years now because I think the dialectics aspect is valuable. Not absolutely necessary but a valuable and enriching addition. Why the negativism — e.g. you are “brutal,” you are “thin” — needs to be flogged, I don’t know. And why adding the dialectics requires a rejection of “mere” NAP, I don’t know either. I have to ask Chris Sciabarra about the false dichotomy because I can’t believe it is something he intended in introducing dialectics into libertarianism.

      In any case, thanks for the post “Dear Ally.”

      • jneilschulman

        Wendy, your kind words are appreciated.

        Maybe I’m getting paranoid in my old age but when libertarians whose rejection of violence are tagged with the Orwellian term “brutalist,” I don’t discount that Orwellian tactics indicates Orwellian operators. I don’t know why the libertarian movement is any more immune to infiltration by statist disinformation agents than any other liberation movement.


    I was seeking your professional opinion on a legal brief I think will defend everyone from every crime against the state, cure poverty, Racism, crime and most of our social ills!
    Delete this or pass it on to all is your choice that effects us all.
    I am after your mind, not money!
    Ed Curtis

    we know you know

  • FEEuser

    Wendy, please do not listen to these people. They will only demoralize you. If I read them correctly, their only purpose is to argue and quibble endlessly over insignificant details. If you engage them, they will drain you of your energy until there is none left. Just forget about them.

    Although it is critical to have a thoroughly solid, unassailable intellectual base for one’s movement, what will carry the day in the end for Libertarians is their ability to influence PUBLIC OPINION. This will NOT be easy! It is one thing to study, write, and publish articles and books about complex economic and social theories. It is quite another to change the thinking of MILLIONS (who do not read such things and cannot understand them) and get them on your side.

    How does one persuade people most effectively to come over to one’s way of thinking? The power elite’s answer to this is incessant propaganda.

    The Libertarian answer is the truth.

    Which is the stronger? I think you know the answer.

    The great challenge that we face is that we are going to have to use some of the same tactics that the power elite propagandists do. That means propaganda (but the good kind). We are going to tell the truth, but it will have to be in simplified form that the masses can understand. They do not read the classics of Libertarian literature, so we are going to have to write some classic propaganda for them. This will be a war for the minds of the masses. We cannot afford to lose this war. To lose it is to lose ALL.

    Who but Libertarians will do this work? There is no one else, though millions are beginning to warm up to some Libertarian ideas. We must build on that. There is an incredible amount of work to do. We need your help. Do not give up.
    Now that we have the Internet, all we have to do is just keep spreading our message to as many people as possible. Remember that the power elite is working very efficiently at securing its own destruction.

    Our efforts should be focused on persuading people, in the simplest ways possible, that the nation-state is the enemy, and that anarcho-capitalism is workable.

    But in order to do this, our message must be simple. We have plenty of high-powered scholars who can write learned articles, essays, and books on theory. We don’t need much more of that. What we lack are people working at the other end of the spectrum, i.e., high-powered advertising geniuses who can rally millions to our cause. I imagine you to be one of those, so your talent is extremely valuable.

    • Thank you, FEEuser. I’ve found that the best way to change the minds of millions of people is one person at a time. I’ve also found that you do not change people’s minds while condemning their character or attitudes. The best way to communicate is the same as it has always been. You treat people with respect and argue the ideas, you listen to *their* ideas and point out their real world consequences. I appreciate your post and your passion.

  • Ian B

    This has been reposted over at the (British) Libertarian Alliance blog, and I just commented there that Wendy’s writings on the interwebs were one of the things that led me to Libertarianism, so it’s horrifying and saddening to me that she feels like this. As to these supposed “thick” libertarians- they aren’t libertarians at all. They are Progressives who, as is their nature, are attempting to subvert us. If you let Proggies into any movement, group, organisation, business, etc, they will turn it into another wing of theirs. That is their nature.

    An earlier discussing at the LAB led to a comment of mine being immortalised in a little poster thing here-


    Either real Libertarians must adopt an active policy of excluding these entryists, or our movements will be destroyed by them. It is that simple. You cannot engage with them, compromise with them, find common ground with them. They have to go.

    I think a second point is that things are particularly dangerous at the moment because we are now at a stage where young adults have grown up under political correctness (whatever you want to call it, cultural marxism, puritan-gramscianism, whatever) and know nothing else, unlike those of us who are older (I’m 48) and remember when things were different and “PC” was still on its way to power. So virtually every young person these days is infected with Progressivised understandings of society as a default- much as everyone in Mediaeval Europe thought in Christian ways as a default. This means that younger people will, automatically, attempt to bend an idea of liberty into this thought mode, and we have to be particularly resolute about saying, “no, that is not how our philosophy works. We are fundamentally and inescapably incompatible with that way of seeing the world, and here’s how and why…” Never has it been more important to stick to our guns.

    These people have got to go. “Thick” Libertarianism is not Libertarianism. Period. No debate.

    • Ah. Thanks for posting here, Ian, because I was wondering why I was hearing from English friends and acquaintances all of a sudden. Thanks also for posting the piece at the Libertarian Alliance. I know that EU and British libertarians are not strangers to PC attitudes being attached to libertarianism….then, after they are attached, the PC attitudes too often become the dominant discussion rather than opposing war, the militarization of police, growing state surveillance, etc. It is fascinating to explore cultural attitudes and ask the question “are there ones that promote freedom more than others?” But I am suspicious when specific cultural attitudes become a demand and used as a weapon to attack those who do not share them.

      We disagree, BTW, on purging “thick” libertarians because I’m not willing to purge anyone from the movement who accepts the non-aggression principle. And I believe many of them absolutely do.But I am also unwilling to listen to the destructive ideas and attitudes without vigorously opposing them.

  • Christian

    Wendy, you remain my favorite canadian anarchist, and an inspiration. I find _some_ value in the different ideas being discussed under the thick/thin, humanitarian/brutalist, etc. discussions. They are clarifying in some ways. But they also have resulted in a lot of attempts to purge people from the movement. I say, leave the purges to the marxists, and let’s cooperate to free ourselves from aggression and coercion, and build voluntary institutions and communities.

    I don’t think these “manufactured debates” (as you put it) will last. I think they are flash-in-the-pan stuff which the consistent libertarian position – skepticism about claims to authority and just power – will easily outlast. It has not changed in its essence since Bastiat and earlier, and it will continue long past us. I’m forever grateful to have experienced your “moving the ball forward” in my own readings.

    I’m not worried about progressives with libertarian leanings – or even libertarians with progressive leanings. They will prove themselves libertarian or not, and we will continue working to build a civil society. I’m happy to have allies like yourself in the world, thinking, writing, clarifying.

    • Good morning, Christian. And thanks for reading my work. I find value in the thick libertarian approach as well, as I’ve noted elsewhere. I like the stress on Sciabarra’s dialectics and I’m writing up a piece on what I think is the path-breaking work Chris has done, which is not widely enough credited. I’m talking about his trilogy on the dialectics of liberty, of course. What I disagree with — and where I think the purge mentality, etc. comes from — is the assumption that freedom should adopt specific cultural attitudes in order to be moral or just. I do not believe morality is expressed in one manner any more than freedom is. And I think the meaning of “tolerance” should return to its old self…that is, actually being tolerant of and benevolent toward differences.

  • JPeron

    There is little there for me to agree with.

    • Well, Jim, by your own account in personal conversation, you’ve ceased to be a hardline libertarian. Sorry to see it. I know you have had a lot of absolutely solid reasons for your disillusionment. I have as well. But the principles did not let me down. The people did. I regret being at conflict with you on this issue…because it is not one on which I can budge. I cannot let so-called social justice people castigate my father and my husband as symbols of white male privilege. They are the two best people I’ve ever known and every room in which they have ever entered is safer and more just because of that entrance. Again, I am sorry to be at odds. But you are wrong to castigate those who are just and gentle.

      • JPeron

        I am not an anarchist, but I am a libertarian. I think you have totally misrepresented others here.
        And then for you to jump to “you are wrong to castigate those who are just and gentle” is out of line since I did no such thing. Very out of line.

        • Jim. No, I do not believe I am out of line. You know from past encounters that I will am open to reason and I will stand up for those who are falsely accused. I will also publicly apologize if I am wrong. But, yes, if you reject the defense of my father against those who would consider him to be a “white male” representative of privilege or patriarchy, then I do consider you as castigating someone who is “just and gentle.” So tell me ask you straight-out…do you reject that representation of my father? Or do you accept the PC framework because he is white, straight male? I do not misrepresent those who are analyzing everything in terms of privilege and power as opposed to liberty and power.

          • JPeron

            Wendy, I have no desire to talk about your father. I have zero information about him. I do not know your father and couldn’t possible have an opinion about him. I am speaking to your attack on “thick libertarians” or whatever they prefer to be called and you are making it a personal attack on your father. How could I possibly have any opinion about him?

            You offer a false alternative. Either I must reject a “misrepresentation” that I’ve never seen and know nothing about or I’m accepting some “PC framework because he is white, straight male.” Thats like: Do you prefer to beat your wife, or your kids?

            Whether you misrepresent those who analyze “everything in terms of privilege and power” I don’t know. I don’t know who they are as they, their words, and no citations are referenced. They are not the thick libertarians I know.

          • Jim, much of the article was about my father, about defending the category of person he represents and which is being attacked…namely, white straight males. When the entirety of your first post is “There is little there for me to agree with,” then I presume you are disagreeing with my defense because it was the thrust of the whole piece. And, for the record, you did meet my father through the article.

            BTW, I also intend to stand up for people who are religious because there is a backlash against them as well for being somehow bigoted or stupid simply for believing in God. I think this may be a hold over from Objectivism; even though I remain an Objectivist in many if not most ways, I do think the typical attitude it engenders on this point is destructive. My attitude is not a defense of the belief itself, BTW, but of the propriety of people believing whatever they wish as long as they accord the same courtesy to others. I intend to treat people with respect as individuals — not as categories — and give them the benefit of the doubt until there is reason not to do so.

            As to naming names….I am not reluctant to deal with people by name when there is a chance of discussing the ideas as ideas; the article on brutalism attests to this fact. But Jeff Tucker and I remain on good terms after disagreeing with each other…and publicly so. I decline to “name names” etc with you, Jim, because I don’t think the same result would ensue. I also decline to turn Daily Bell into a personal attack forum rather than a discussion of the ideas. I have too much respect for the people who behind it. So this thread will not go the way of ones with which you are familiar. I will discuss the ideas.

          • Sydney

            A good tree cannot produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.

            Yes, Wendy, I know your father, very well in fact, because I know you (your work). My life is witness to the creation of the false reality that every category or group is the victim and the only perpetrators of injustice are White, straight, (Christian) men. Undoubtedly the opposite is closer to the truth in this artificially created “opposite” reality we live in. Interesting that the Victims may/are quite likely the greatest perpetrators of what they profess they are the victim of. Evil within all groups has used this tact, and it works.

            Christian in the simple reduction that you treat others, all others, as you would want to be treated, not just those who are in your tribe, group, club ect. Yes this includes “straight’ which is nothing more or less than directing very real and powerful sexual impulses toward a moral, and productive, monogamous relationship and nurturing environment. ANY form of immorality is NOT gay. Perhaps the ultimate reduction would be to denounce the use of force on a general basis.

            Yes these are broad sweeping statements, and my only reluctance in presenting them here is that it may dilute or distract from the very real truth, that yes, I know your father and I too “love” him in a similar but not quite as personal way.

            He would be (perhaps is) proud of the champion you have become.

            Best Wishes.

  • Matthew Reece

    I advise taking Christopher Cantwell’s approach: take the Brutalist label, own it, and run with it. The fake libertarians could scarcely have given us a more interesting term with which to run.

  • Jerry

    I’m intreagued by ‘Libertarianism’ Having mixed with Anarchists during my mis-spent youth I’m well aware of the Kropkinist socialist libertarianism of the left-wing anarchists, a society built round independant co-operatives and collectives, but the ‘brutalist’ approach makes little sence to me. How do you have property without enforcement by the police? How do you have that without either taxes to pay for them or protection only for the most violent?

  • Richard Keys

    Yah! That’s just what the world needs; more selfishness and less compassion!

  • Scott Bieser

    Bit of a “mea culpa” here … when Tucker first published that piece describing “humanist” versus “brutalist” libertarianism, I welcomed it in part because I mistakenly thought he was taking a path similar to that you describe of Sciabarra, and in part because I worried then (and still do now) about the matter of racists in the movement.

    As time passed and the discussion continued I became a bit uneasy about it and Wendy your article here crystallized much of that for me. I hope you don’t decide to “leave the movement” whatever that might mean. Your insights are consistently dead-on and we would all be the poorer for your absence.