Still Rethinking Fusionism
I am a bad, bad man. Last week I started a mini-firestorm of controversy about fusionism, then ran away into the woods of upstate New York for a two week vacation where the Internet is an endangered species. And now that the firestorm has since—partially, at least—died down, I’m here to stir it back up again. Because I totally captured an Internet in a Have-A-Heart trap and can actually use it for my nefarious blogging.
Jason Pye made some very thoughtful points in his rebuttal, which could be summed up by his last paragraph, that we shouldn’t “cut off our nose to spite our face.” Fair enough. I myself am a “gradualist,” and don’t see radical libertarianism as the way forward. Jason and I agree on that. But there are a few things I take issue with.
For starters, I never ruled out working with conservatives on issues. In fact, I explicitly endorsed ad hoc alliances with both the right and the left in order to advance individual liberty. This was the view put forward by our colleague Tom Knighton, and I think its a reasonable and sensible one to use.
The problem I have with fusionism is not that we’re working with people we disagree with on issues. That’s not just politics, that’s just life, and we’re going to have to deal with it. The problem with fusionism is that it seeks to subsume libertarianism as a wing of the conservative jumbo jet that’s flying off into some distant horizon. That libertarianism is really just a bunch of conservatives who like drugs, are okay with gay people, and not as much with war. But, as it goes, libertarians are fundamentally conservative at their core.
But this is extremely inaccurate. Libertarianism is based on classical liberalism—as Jason noted—which in its original heyday was opposed to conservatism, and quite strongly. Conservatism is just another ideology that puts the power of one group above another, and emphasizes government power to control and regulate a nation’s culture, to “uphold tradition and morality.” But these are nowhere in the purview of government of even the most statist libertarian. They are fundamentally incompatible views.
Roy A. Childs, Jr., spoke of this in 1981 after the Libertarian Party scored its highest percentage in a presidential race—1%:
“[Libertarianism] is a process and an approach to politics that is so unique that we cannot become tailgunners for lukewarm Reaganites or work with left-wing Democrats who happen to be peaceniks, because if we work for Reaganites, we’re going to get the moral majority legislation shoved down our throats, and we’re going to have militarization upon militarization until this economy becomes so heavily burdened with arms that there will be nothing left to do except shoot them off or sink…and as for those leftists and liberals — however many exist today — who want to cut back on the military, we can go along with that, but when they talk about funding human needs, well, I’ve got news for them: the real human need here is liberty! For people to live their own lives as they see fit, in America and elsewhere around the world.” - Roy A. Childs, Jr.
Libertarianism is not conservatism. It should not, and can not, be suborned into a greater conservative movement. It is too different. Like I said earlier, we can certainly work with conservatives on certain issues (like forcing them to actually cut spending, which they never seem to do), but if we allow ourselves to be used by them, we’re just going to end up with more TSA strip searches, more Obamacare, more domestic spying, and more wars. It’s not going to end or be tempered if we sit quietly and pretend that we’re just another part of the conservative movement.
And we’re not as small as Jason suggests. Sure, we’re not the dominant majority…yet. But that is swiftly changing. A story on Vice.com is titled “The Kids Are All Libertarian.” Many of the young, as pointed out in a Harvard study, are becoming more and more libertarian. Not doctrinaire libertarian, certainly, but they have lost all faith and trust in political leaders and the government, and they just want to be left alone.
We’re quickly and rapidly growing as a movement, but if we’re ever going to achieve critical mass and make some big changes, we’re going to need to separate ourselves from the conservative “brand” and be the independents we’ve always been. That doesn’t mean we need to go bouncing off the walls radical anarcho-capitalists, but it does mean we have to be skeptical of both conservatives and social democrats, and stand apart from both.