Pragmatism vs Philosophy, Beyond Borders

Opinion by Kyle A. Lohmeier

There has been much debate lately in the dusty corner of the Internet where I spend too much time between Anarcho-Capitalists and more or less everyone else. The hot topic currently is pragmatism vs. philosophy; i.e. should libertarians and AnCaps support any notion that still requires the existence of the state? Especially, can an “real” AnCap support closed borders and not sell out their philosophy?

To me the debate, whatever the issue is, seems to get hazy because the physical world being discussed tends to vacillate between “theoretical Ancapistan,” and present-day USA. For example, take the issue of closed vs. open borders. In theoretical Ancapistan, there would be no state, and therefore no national borders to consider, rendering moot the whole notion of having “closed” or “open” borders to enforce. Furthermore, in theoretical Ancapistan, there would be no welfare state or free medical care paid for by taxpayers (as there are no taxes) for immigrants to take advantage of. There is also no drug war to motivate immigrants to come across the non-existent border to sell drugs Ancapistanis can buy at their local 7-11.

In 2017 America, the border debate among libertarians has been whether or not to support strict immigration controls in light of the current welfare state. It’s been suggested that it’s only pragmatic to do so, going as far as to support Trump’s idiotic border wall, so that American taxpayers aren’t taken advantage of. Once the welfare state is ended, then it’s okay to open the borders, some libertarians suggest. I personally can’t advocate the government putting hands on anyone, the fact the welfare state needs to be destroyed notwithstanding, and therefore I don’t hold with those “pragmatic libertarians” some have dubbed “bordertarians.”

The whole philosophy versus pragmatism debate has taken numerous forms over the years, usually with regard to what extent AnCaps ought participate in the system at all; with many refusing to have anything to do with the entire electoral process. Maintaining a philosophically pure aloofness and detachment is great and all, but it tends to leave AnCaps with few options. We seek to spread our message of freedom and liberty as best we can – and it tends not to make it much past that aforementioned dusty corner of the Internet. In the meantime, life, and government goes on; and when government goes on it necessarily absorbs the rights and lives of the governed.

For these reasons, I can certainly understand the fit of pragmatism that led to the creation of the Libertarian Party to begin with. There is certainly some wisdom to the argument that since we aren’t ever going to get to theoretical Ancapistan as long as we live, short of some sort of sewage-has-struck-the-impeller-level event, we might as well use what little power over the state we have left to try to vote in politicians who pledge to attempt to pare back the intrusiveness of government and its attendant cost.

To me, the role of pragmatism comes down to accepting that there is a big, giant government in 2017 that isn’t going anywhere soon, so, how best to live with the Beast? To many AnCaps, trying to work within the system to change it makes as much sense as joining La Cosa Nostra and trying to convince them to get out of their various rackets; to try to change the Mafia from the inside. There’s some truth to that, particularly when we realize how thoroughly entrenched the oligarchs who control the government are.

So, government won’t go away, the dead haven’t returned to life, an electromagnetic pulse attack hasn’t wiped out all global financial records and civilization hasn’t collapsed despite teetering on the brink for some time now. In short, the annihilation of the state that clears the way for the rise of theoretical Ancapistan isn’t happening soon. Worse, we can’t change the system from within, and despite all the driving around I do, my “taxation is theft” bumper sticker hasn’t inspired 1776 Part II yet. What do we do? Hell, what can we do?

Not much, really.

The only thing we AnCaps, minarchists and right-libertarians (go away, Bernouts), can do is try to be as disruptive as possible. Do as much as you can to work outside the government’s system: find someone to pay you under the table, trade and barter, use cryptocurrency, “cheat” like hell on your taxes, don’t cooperate with cops, film DUI checkpoints, never register firearms, etc. In the meantime, keep up the advocacy. Make your statist friends and family have to scroll past the memes you share from Anarchyball and the like, write letters to the editor, blog, etc.

This disruptiveness could be greatly aided by the Libertarian Party, if they’d be so kind as to quit running Republican retreads at the top of their ticket. The party founded by minarchists and AnCaps can help the cause of liberty, if we help it. Are you handsome? Well-spoken? Have great hair? Are tall? Then run for office as a Libertarian! I’m none of those things, so, I blog. Turns out, there’s even a new opening there!

Just imagine a Libertarian Party full of young, engaging people presenting a coherent message on individual liberty. Imagine if the LP could gain enough traction to win a few seats in the house and senate, maybe a governorship here or there. Imagine if the LP ran a solid candidate against Trump and Warren (or whoever) in 2020 and they actually got onto the debate stage. A few election cycles like that, and we might just put enough Libertarian butts in seats in Washington D.C. to jam up bills that would raise taxes, make war, or increase the government’s power. A few more election cycles and we might get enough Libertarians in the house and senate to start flooding the sitting president’s desk with bills that actually REDUCE the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government, not just slow the rate of its growth.

If the LP could simultaneously be doing the same thing at the state level as well, Americans would have to notice the net increase in their personal prosperity as each layer and level of government ruining their lives is made weaker and smaller. At the state level, organized libertarians have the opportunity to change laws at the ballot box, as the residents of Washington, Colorado and now several other states have done with marijuana. Those victories resulted in a net decrease in the power and intrusiveness of government, something any libertarian, minarchist or AnCap should be happy about. Furthermore, now that a few years have passed since Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana and the world hasn’t ended in either state, we have those victories to point to when we try to cure our fellow Americans of their Stockholm Syndrome and get them to see that they don’t need government. Clearly, the ballot box can still be made to serve the cause of anarchy, as silly as that sounds on the surface.

At the very least, getting enough Libertarians in the way would stall bills in congress. If the Demicans and Republicrats can’t get bills passed that swell the size of government, that’s a win for all of us, even if the Libertarians couldn’t get enough votes to pass bills that shrink the size of government. Left alone, the duopoly will continue carving this nation up between their respective cronies until there’s nothing left. As such, doing nothing, to me at least, doesn’t sound pragmatic at all.

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