Trump Is No Friend of Freedom
Of all the disheartening developments of the 2016 Presidential cycle, the largest has been the flight of the libertarians to Donald Trump. We see this whenever it becomes obvious that a libertarian candidate isn’t going to win; their supporters, 90% of the time, flock to the nearest conservative, eat up their empty rhetoric, ignore their social policies, and wonder why they’re seen as closet conservatives by the rest of the population. It’s the opposite of the RINO phenomenon; instead of identifying as Republican yet sharing comparatively few values, every year we see libertarians enthusiastically singing the praises of liberty, and then, when the time comes, flocking to the ballot box to put their cross with whatever god-botherer, gay-basher, misogynist, or warmonger has an (R) next to their name.
And of course, this time it is no different. The only thing surprising about this instance of the movement’s quadrennial migration is its destination. Instead of flocking to Cruz or Rubio, it seems that the main thrust of still-voting libertarians are prepared to throw their lot in with Donald Trump. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you all about how Trump is racist, sexist, or whatever. It seems that such rhetoric either falls on deaf ears or galvanises his supporters to rally against ‘political correctness’ (as they seem to see emancipation and civil freedom as a form of tyranny). I’m not convinced any Trumpeter is going to be converted by a blog post insulting them. My purpose in writing this article is to attempt to show those of you who are wavering that Trump is by no means a liberty-leaning candidate, and if anyone deserves your vote, it is certainly not him. The libertarian exodus towards Trump shows a fundamental disconnect between the theory and practice of political libertarianism, and demonstrates that the future does not seem to bode well.
First, let’s take a look at this article by Dr. Walter Block, a professor of economics at Loyola University, and Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute. In it, he asserts that “[t]here are several issues upon which libertarians do not and cannot support Donald Trump”, and identifies protectionism as one of those – and yet decides this is a sufficient libertarian criticism of Trump’s platform. The rest of the article consists of an argument that where Trump deviates from libertarianism, so do the other candidates, and advocates voting for Trump on the basis that he is the least-bad candidate. I’m not going to argue about the validity of gradualist voting versus utopian voting, and in any case that’s not my main issue with Block’s article.
It is instead the blasé stance libertarians seem to take to figures who lean ‘right’-ish economically, and yet who seem to have no concern for civil liberties. We see this in Pinochet fanaticism. Pinochet is an interesting case, whose economic reforms almost certainly brought greater prosperity to Chile than the country would have experienced otherwise, yet this does not mean it was morally acceptable for him to utilise a secret police force and to throw dissenters from helicopters. We cannot really claim to be for liberty if we would only extend that freedom to those who would agree with us ideologically. If we are to condemn the communists who make excuses for the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Venezuela, then we cannot turn around and act as apologists for dictators who, despite their brutality, still made room for market reforms.
But if only this was the case with Trump! If only he was an economic libertarian, and if only the major work that needed to be done was the creating of a socially libertarian lobby to counter him. He still wouldn’t be a desirable candidate, but he’d need less work to be done. Yet the most galling thing about the libertarian support for Trump is that he is not an economic libertarian at all. He has a neo-mercantilist trade policy, an approach towards immigration that places phony national solidarity above economic flourishing, and a stance towards personal liberty that would make Robespierre blush. From wanting to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, to wanting to deny ordinary Americans the opportunity to buy cheap goods from abroad, to his desire to beef up the military and “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, he has all the hallmarks of a nationalist, populist politician with less ideological positioning and more frat-boy debate-team tribalism. I can sympathise (while disagreeing) with the slightly more nuanced arguments surrounding religious freedom proposed by those like Mike Munger, but if there’s one thing The Donald doesn’t do, it’s nuance.
Even if we ignore his hostility towards civil freedom, outright opposition to economic freedom, and overall authoritarian platform, we can still find more problems with his movement. Kooks and wannabe guerrilla fighters aside, most libertarians seem to agree that the US is not on the verge of collapse or civil war, and that this is a rather pleasant state of affairs. Yet we see calls for violence on the streets to become a part of the political process. What sort of libertarian society are we trying to create, where political dissent is to be met with violence? How are we ever going to convince anyone ours is a sensible movement when prominent figures are willing to abandon their principles and join the modern-day brownshirts?
Sure, there are a lot of bad arguments levied against Trump, and a lot of peacocking and petulance from the Democrats over his candidacy. But he doesn’t represent a silent majority, he doesn’t represent Americans who are suffering via the country’s domestic policies, and he isn’t going to bring liberty to anyone. But don’t let the bad arguments against him make you lose sight of the terrific arguments against him. Trump is no friend of liberty, and no friend of America. He doesn’t want to make the country great again, he’s purely pursuing power for its own sake, and we all know where that ends up. So please, before throwing your lot in with this demagogue, take a look at his platform, take a look at your own values, and make sure you’re making the right decision. You may be angry, and you may be pissed off, but the worst thing you can do is let yet another well-manufactured politician use that to take advantage of you.
Dedicated to promoting personal and economic freedom.