Dear Libertarians

The problem with anyone trying to divorce politics from ethics, epistemology or metaphysics is that your opponents are not playing by the same rules.

Let’s take two libertarian positions — sexual freedom and economic freedom. For example, in the US, the end to sodomy laws and the end of farm subsidies.

The libertarian goes and makes his political point: end ethanol! get out of people’s bedrooms!

And the democrat says — you can’t end ethanol, it is your duty to support the farmers who are in need.

And the Republicans say — you can’t end sodomy laws, it’s your duty to submit to God’s will.

And the libertarian argues and argues for individual rights, free markets, practicality, etc– he makes all the pragmatic cost analysis arguments.

And receives 1% of the vote.


Because ethics is more fundamental than politics. If a man makes a political case only, he is trumped by an opponent who can make a more fundamental moral point. Yes, the socialist argues — ethanol is costly, but it’s our duty to serve the environment. We all must sacrifice. And who said morality was practical? Yes, the theocrat says — sodomy laws involve getting the government into people’s bedrooms but what else is the government for but to impose the good on everyone? Isn’t that what you want to do? Impose by government force your notion that freedom and rights are a good thing? By what argument can you claim it is? “Just because” you say, and you get 1% of the vote.

If Libertarians want to know why they have been doomed to wander the electoral wilderness — it’s this simple answer — those who make the moral point move the body politic, not those who make the political points. Men will lash themselves across the back, lie on a bed of nails, kill or be killed if they think it’s how to be moral. They will never come to prosperity, life, success and liberty via any ethics that tells them such things are evil and selfish.

If a man is free, you don’t teach him to keep and maintain that freedom by telling him to serve others, and see himself as a slave to the common good, or tell him every Sunday that he needs to be humble. That’s a formula for convincing the man to shackle his own legs and whip his own back voluntarily.

Richard Gleaves

Richard is an objectivist playright living in New York. He blogs at Uncommon Sense, and is deservedly prominent on YouTube for his adaptations of Galt’s Speech.

Image by Robert S Donovan

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