Before we get to Beck, though, we need to step back and address a comment by Students for Liberty co-founder Alexander McCobin that probably prompted Beck’s video above:
“…if Glenn wants to call himself a libertarian, I am happy to accept him as one…on the condition…that he comes here to our community and proclaim ‘mea culpa’ for his past defenses of social and neo-conservatism…”
Here McCobin perpetuates a myth that libertarianism is in conflict with “social conservatism”. It’s absolutely not. One can hold “socially conservative” views on drugs, Israel, marriage, etc. and still be a libertarian, i.e. not forcing such views on others. (Abortion is the exception: depending on your stance it is an act of aggression). (Borowski video) McCobin is correct, though, that anyone, like Beck, who has taken very public, anti-liberty positions, is going to have to repudiate what he said in order to have any credibility.
Beck responded to McCobin’s comments on his radio show:
“This guy wrote, and said if Glenn Beck wants to join our club — meaning Libertarianism — then he has to come and atone for his past transgressions, and I thought, ‘Is that you grand inquisitor?’ What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? You’re more Fascist than some of the Fascists that I’ve seen. And the same thing with many of the hard core Ron Paul supporters. You are supposed to have a brain of your own, and you’re not supposed to be about an individual. I mean Libertarianism is about a set of ideas: maximum freedom. Not about a person.”
Of course, we accept newcomers, even if they don’t support liberty to the extent we do. But to claim the libertarian label, you have to actually be a libertarian. Beck may be moving in the right direction, but he isn't quite there. A few recent examples demonstrate this:
- Lincoln: Honoring Lincoln with a poster on your show’s set is honoring a man who rejected the central principle of the Declaration of Independence: the right of secession. It’s honoring a man who did more to destroy the Constitution’s federal government in favor of a national government than any other President. Lincoln’s agenda was anti-liberty: high tariffs and corporate welfare. If you like Lincoln, you’re probably not a libertarian.
- The Military: People who take a government job to participate in an aggressive, unconstitutional war are not heroes. They are participators in aggression, they are attacking our liberty, whether they know it or not. To call them all heroes is irrational and certainly not libertarian. If you think Chris Kyle was a hero because he was an effective sniper in Iraq for the military, you’re probably not a libertarian.
- War on Drugs: This is another stumbling block for social conservatives. They correctly recognize certain activities are bad, like drug abuse, but incorrectly assume that it’s acceptable to force this view on others by prohibiting them from doing what they want with their property. That’s not what liberty is. With liberty you are legally free to do whatever you want as long as you don’t violate other’s rights. If you don’t want to end the war on drugs, you’re probably not a libertarian.
If you don’t accept libertarian views on major issues, you’re probably not yet a libertarian. Until you do, it’s best that you don’t describe yourself as such, at least without qualifying it. People who take on a name but act inconsistent with it cause confusion and that requires others to correct their error. To call out those who misuse the name is not authoritarian, but an attempt to preserve the integrity of our language.
Incidentally, this is why we have to spend a lot of time on Rand Paul. The public perception is that he is a libertarian, when he usually is not.