A robust exchange between Jeff Deist, President of the Mises Institute, and Michael Boldin, Executive Director of the Tenth Amendment Center, showed how libertarians of different stripes can come together while reaching out to the broader public by sticking to the issues that matter.
Boldin appeared on the Mises Institute’s Audio/Video Podcast for a spirited discussion about libertarian strategy. This is an essential topic that has been glossed over for far too long, to the detriment of the movement as a whole. While Deist, a staunch anarchist, and Boldin, a political reformer, may seem to be at odds, they found a whole lot of common ground during their chat.
“Forget that the 202 area code even exists. Don’t call these people. Don’t lobby them. Don’t march on D.C. Don’t give money to their candidates. Don’t vote for them,” Boldin said, urging a more localized approach for liberty-minded individuals to embark upon.
Other than rare exceptions like the Brexit vote or the Ron Paul campaigns for President in 2008 or 2012, participation in national politics has been a soul-crushing dead end for liberty activists. Many Rand Paul and Ted Cruz supporters have learned the hard way this year, having their hopes dashed after spending countless hours pushing their candidates with nothing to show for it. More fruitful endeavors can be cultivated at the local and state levels, Boldin explains.
“We find that we make a lot more connections and have a lot more effect when we focus issue-by-issue building coalitions to get what we want done,” Boldin said.
The Tenth Amendment Center has even hatched alliances with the ACLU and Greenpeace on the issue of stopping illegal federal spying. It seems unfathomable that a libertarian organization could find common ground with such notoriously hardcore leftists, but that is what happened. The ACLU even co-authored an op/ed with the Tenth Amendment Center in TIME Magazine promoting states’ rights against NSA Spying and Big Brother. The success stems from Boldin’s inclusive philosophy.
“We all come from some place. We all learn from some point. I started as a Commie, a hard-left winger, but now I believe in liberty… But to bemoan or demean someone because they are not pure isn’t going to get anything done,” Boldin said. “I think we want to encourage the good that they are focused on, and try to draw them into more.”
Drawing upon his message of unity, Boldin also commented on how the Founding Fathers and many of great Austrian economists have drawn upon the same anti-state themes throughout their work.
In a 2009 book titled What Must Be Done, Hans Hermann-Hoppe stated:
Because a monopoly of protection is the root of all evil, any territorial expansion of such a monopoly is per se evil too. Every political centralization must be on principle grounds rejected. In turn, every attempt at political decentralization—segregation, separation, secession and so forth—must be supported.
Murray N. Rothbard stated the following in a 1993 essay titled Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation State:
In the U.S., it becomes important, in moving toward such radical decentralization, for libertarians and classical liberals — indeed, for many other minority or dissident groups — to begin to lay the greatest stress on the forgotten Tenth Amendment and to try to decompose the role and power of the centralizing Supreme Court. Rather than trying to get people of one’s own ideological persuasion on the Supreme Court, its power should be rolled back and minimized as far as possible, and its power decomposed into state, or even local, judicial bodies.
Hoppean and Rothbardian sentiments are borne out in the works of the Founding Fathers as well. In response to powers “which have not been delegated,” Thomas Jefferson told us that nullification is the “rightful remedy.” Madison in Federalist #46 recommended that states and individuals employ “a refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union,” Even Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #78 that “there is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void.”
Boldin has created a unique blueprint that can be used by libertarian activists nationwide to maximize their effectiveness while keeping principles in tact. This is backed up by my own personal experiences. Being a nullification proponent in Michigan for several years, breaking my activism up on an issue-by-issue basis has helped me reach a wider variety of people than I ever could have imagined.
I talk to tea party conservatives about stopping Obamacare, Common Core, gun control and Agenda 21. I talk to liberals about curtailing marijuana prohibition, enacting criminal justice reform, and strengthening privacy rights. I talk to libertarians about how I am uniting people from all walks of life toward a more voluntary society. All without having to compromise my beliefs one iota!
It’s just a matter of knowing your audience. The ideas of local control and decentralization appeal to folks on the left. The ideas of state sovereignty and stopping federal tyranny appeal to folks on the right. There is a way to give our ideas broad appeal, as long as we are proactive and take the initiative to do so.
“Libertarians and liberty-minded conservatives… have to understand that we can’t just eradicate and change peoples mind. We have to find a way to unyoke ourselves from them,” Deist said to capstone his groundbreaking interview with Boldin.
Until libertarians grasp that important reality, they will be treading water in a system that is designed to keep them out. Working through the local and state levels, libertarians can cut away at centralized power with a surprising amount of support from the left and the right to bolster their cause. This is how libertarianism can be applied practically in the real world.
We just have to be smart, and most importantly, refuse to jeopardize our principles under any circumstances when conducting our activism.