Originally published here.
News reports on the tragic incident that killed one person in Charlottesville and the events that led to this death continue to dominate the news cycle. But while media outlets leaning both right and left spin the stories to better suit their narrative, libertarians sit and watch in awe. Have we not warned our friends, colleagues, and readers enough about the dangers of seemingly competing political groups escalating against each other in the name of power?
On one side, we have members of a group of individuals who usually hide their faces and yes, use violence as a tactic to instill fear and make their message heard. They are known as “antifa” and their acts of violence are well known. On the other side, we have yet another group of often young, collectivist, seemingly frustrated, and obviously angry Americans who frequently see the answer to their problems in the national socialist philosophy. On Saturday, a member of this group violently murdered a demonstrator with his car, single-handedly putting the “alt-right” group on virtually every front page in the country.
Still, to libertarians, both groups often sound and act the same. And that’s no coincidence, for when politics is at stake, individuals tend to use the weapons provided by the state to seek influence.
These groups do not resort to the free market principles of open and peaceful competitiveness or the idea that you’re free to associate with a certain individual or group or not without being forced into action. They do not wish to persuade. Instead, they use the state’s tool: coercion. And that’s what makes groups focused on gaining political influence so dangerous.
As a monopoly over the use of force, the state is capable of obtaining revenue by extortion. Subjects who refuse to pay are penalized. So it’s no wonder that those who seek political power in search for a way to impose their preferred view upon the remaining population are often so violent.
And what’s worse, political groups such as antifa or the alt-right all claim to have the solution to problems at hand. If only they had access to political power, they proudly claim, the country would have all and any maladies soon addressed and the nation would then be “healed.”
But libertarians understand that states are inefficient precisely because they claim to have the power to work on behalf of all without taking into consideration differences among individuals.
It’s because the government acts without regard for human action, or in other words, what makes individuals act the way they do, that power structures are incapable of solving problems efficiently. So if a group is seeking access to this type of power, you know they don’t understand the basics not only of human nature but of politics itself. Or perhaps, they understand it so well and are so tyrannical that they are willing to impose their will no matter how many people are directly harmed (or yes, even killed) as a result.
When such clashes occur and they take over the news cycle, we must remember that these battles aren’t about virtue-signaling, which side is “less bad,” or how libertarians should act in the aftermath. Anyone who’s dedicated to a free market-oriented philosophy that takes into consideration the sanctity of voluntary interactions understands that the fight over political power is always fruitless at best, and extremely harmful at worst.
So instead of pointing fingers and calling names, now is the time, more than ever, to embody liberty and liberty only.