Monday, September 23, 2013

Walter Block: It Is Time To Make A Stand on the Word "Libertarian"

Dr Block emails me:

However, I disagree with Chris, Ron Paul and Lew (for being soft on this issue). No, no, no, say I. Never give up on the word “libertarian.” We’ve got to prize our words, protect them, defend them. Our intellectual and ideological enemies like to seize our words. If we give up on “libertarian,” and substitute for it “non-interventionist,” all too soon the statists will seize that one from us too. Hey, at this rate, we’ll have no words at all, and thus we’ll have to shut up. This is exactly what they want. They’ve already taken “liberal” from us, pretty much. Never say die on “libertarian” say I. Of course, I don’t mind at all, I positively welcome, new words such as “non-interventionist.” While I’m on my soap box, I also regret the loss of “isolationist.” Let us borrow strategy from the blacks, and the gays. The former used to be excoriated with the “N” word. They use is as a badge of honor among themselves. The same in the latter case with the word “queer.” The word “capitalist” was a smear word used against us by the Marxists. Ayn Rand, bless her (so to speak), did the same thing with “capitalist” and “capitalism.” She used it as an honorific.

I think word use is very important. We are, after all, are we not, wordsmiths. Words are our tools in trade. They should be precious to us. To give up on the word “libertarian” just because the statists are nibbling away at it, should be resisted.

As between “libertarian” and “non-interventionist” although I favor using both, I vastly prefer the former, and not just for historical reasons. Murray Rothbard published The libertarian forum, and the Journal of \Libertarian Studies. Nowadays we have Libertarian Papers, started by Stephan Kinsella and now edited by Matt McCaffrey.  This just sounds better to my ears than The non-interventionist forum, and the Journal of non-interventionist studies and non-interventionist papers.


  1. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Words are a very bad form of communication, only all the others are so much worse." In the past you could sing the Christmas carol line "Don we now our gay apparel" and everyone knew you were happy. Today I'm not so sure.

    In communicating with others we both have to have the same understanding of the words used to properly convey our ideas. Mises wanted to reclaim the word "liberal" but if you tell someone today that you are a liberal they won't think you are a fan of Mises.

    If the general public begins to understand the meaning of "libertarian" to be other than what we mean then we run the risk of being misunderstood. It is better to communicate clearly than to hold on to our favorite term religiously and be thought something we're not.

  2. Rand Paul and Glenn beck are ruining the word libertarian

  3. I know "Libertarianism" is associated to "non-aggression/non-intervention”, “liberty to all people”, “free market”, “small or no government”. Maybe it is time to define the fundamental principles of “Libertarianism” so that no “priest” of “Libertarian Church” will misinterpret the “Christ” at his/her will or understanding and calling other libertarians as pseudo-libertarians, leading to the formation of different Libertarian sects like left- and right-libertarians, and cause detrimental effects (although disunity or diversity is preached in Libertarianism) to the libertarian movement of making more people know and understand (as opposed to being confused) what is Libertarianism and how a free-market economy is the best way to protect individual liberties, spur innovation and raise living standards. As a matter of the basic tenet of Libertarianism (i.e. freedom and non-intervention), and since it is not a religion, there must be no institution or authority to accept you or to reject you or to oppose you on behalf of Libertarianism. Don’t make it into another Ayn-Rand-Cult. There can be unlimited implications, applications, and interpretations of Libertarianism. Celebrate the diversity even if they deviate from the fundamental principles. Debate it and let the truth reveal itself. There will come a time when Libertarianism does not need anyone to protect It, for It is capable of protecting Itself.