A mere six years after Ron Paul’s last presidential run the “liberty movement” has collapsed. As many former Ron Paul libertarians jumped ship and joined either the far left or the alt right, once thriving grassroots organizations were forced to either close up shop, sell out, and/or severely limit their operations. Campaign for Liberty, for example, effectively shut down all of its grassroots operations for lack of interest. Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) was forced to consolidate its low-turnout State Conventions into larger Regional Conventions, in order to make it look like more people were showing up, while Students for Liberty (SFL) was forced to rebrand its “International Students for Liberty Conference” to simply “LibertyCon,” in order to pad falling attendance numbers with adults. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that both YAL and SFL are now on the Koch brothers’ financial life support.
The problem with the liberty movement isn’t merely a lack of a uniting figure like Ron Paul. There’s a deeper problem that exists for the movement: the lack of Ron Paul’s right-wing populist message. While Ron Paul campaigned on issues like ending birthright citizenship and putting troops on the Southern border, today’s libertarian “leaders” support open borders. While Ron Paul supported pulling out of NAFTA, the WTO, and a number of other trade agreements and globalist organizations, today’s libertarian “leaders” all support so-called “free trade” agreements. While Ron Paul and his acolytes supported the repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, wrote “racist” newsletters, and some (like Rothbard) even supported David Duke, today’s libertarian “leaders” call all Trump supporters “racist.” A similar contrast can be drawn on numerous other issues as well.
The problem with modern libertarianism is that the populist wing has been slayed by the pro-establishment and pro-corporate beltway wing of the movement. Ron Paul was replaced by the Cato Institute and Reason Magazine, and unsurprisingly the whole movement quickly fell apart. But there’s still another problem with post-Ron Paul libertarianism: its inauthenticity.
Libertarians like Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, and Murray Rothbard did their best to apply their ideology consistently: they would rail against all forms of government intervention. They were equally opposed to corporate welfare and handouts to the poor. These figures all supported a pure free market ideal—an ideal which we may disagree with, but one which was admirably applied consistently.
Modern libertarians, however, have twisted their ideology to defend the status quo. Instead of proposing revolutionary change, they now support big corporations that are in bed with the government—as long as those corporations provide a cheap good or service that people enjoy consuming.
The libertarian movement has essentially degraded into a cheap simulacrum of itself, an ersatz or cargo cult version of itself. Like a cargo cult, modern libertarians substituted the substance of their own ideology with its trappings; while cargo cults worship model airplanes made out of straw instead of the real thing, cargo cult libertarians worship rich men and massive corporations instead of free markets. And just like a cargo cult, modern libertarianism has become nothing more than a way to worship consumerism.
An excellent example of this is how libertarians leapt to the defense of Jeff Bezos and Amazon following President Trump’s comments about Amazon not paying enough for United States Postal Service shipping. This is a pretty fair and straightforward statement: the USPS is currently hemorrhaging billions of dollars and could easily make up for some of the lost revenue by raising its bulk shipping rates for Amazon. If Amazon doesn’t like the new deal, they could beat it—but, of course, the USPS’s private competitors like FedEx cost much more. It’s fair to say that the taxpayers are footing the bill for Amazon’s shipping, so why not raise those shipping rates?
The main objection to this that many libertarians voiced on social media can basically be boiled down to: “I like muh cheap goods and free shipping, so how dare DRUMPF attack a successful company!”
But this ignores the many problems with Amazon. For example, in addition to profiting off of taxpayer-subsidized shipping rates, they lobby for government contracts, they’re in bed with the deep state, they spy on your reading habits, they sell you “smart devices” that the government uses to spy on you, they censor Christian content, they work with special interest groups to censor politically incorrect books, and they do all of this while defending pedophilia guides as free speech. In short, Amazon is a sick company run by sick people who have no problem with helping the government spy on you while they promote pedophilia and censor politically incorrect books.
Meanwhile, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has no problem taking the billions he earns from Amazon and reinvesting it in the failing Washington Post—a newspaper well-known for it’s liberal and pro-war biases.
Yet libertarians, somehow, can’t help but defend crony capitalists like Jeff Bezos and corrupt corporations like Amazon who are profiting at the expense of taxpayers while doing everything in their power to grease the wheels of Big Government. And this Cargo Cult Libertarian mindset extends much further—these same people will also defend companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, despite their censorship of free speech, lobbying for government favors, and strong ties with the deep state.
But none of this matters to these Cargo Cult Libertarians. They don’t actually care about free speech, abolishing corporate welfare, or rolling back the government’s surveillance programs. No, all they care about is getting cheap goods online—especially when those goods come with free shipping!