Ahh, the reasonable moderate. Bringing sanity, agreeableness, and facts to every conversation, and forging the path to bipartisan progress for America!
“Sanity,” of course, refers to the acceptable range of extremely diverse opinions between those of Hillary Clinton on the left, and John McCain on the right. “Agreeableness” refers to cordiality toward everyone as long as their opinions are within this range (to the right of which they must be condemned as loudly and forcefully as possible… and, what? Oh yes, left-wing extremists are kind of bad as well, I guess). “Facts” are statistical data interpreted by completely unbiased public policy experts who are purely interested in the “common good”, interpreted without the extremist ideology of a priori axioms. “Bipartisanship,” of course, refers to the very best ideas of the Democrats and Republicans coming together in a spirit of compromise for the greater good, and includes wonderful policies such as common sense gun regulations, sanctions on Russia, NSA surveillance programs, and more foreign wars.
“Reasonable moderates” like to fancy themselves as the saviors of modern politics. And many libertarians, wanting to distance themselves from the “extreme” right and left, tend to turn a blind eye to them, believing them to be less dangerous to liberty than the “extremists.” But is this truly the case?
One thing to immediately note is that if one is a libertarian (i.e. one who supports the consistent application of the non-aggression principle and the private property ethic from which it is derived), then he is most certainly an extremist by the standards of mainstream political discourse. And indeed, libertarians are despised among moderates as the worst of the extremists, because they dare to take basic ethical principles to their logical conclusion. This is especially obvious given the number of recent hit-pieces that have been written on libertarians within the mainstream media (here, here, and here). To the moderate, it would be preferable for people to not have any firm commitment to any ethical principles, preferring instead to embrace whatever views are deemed “acceptable” by the mainstream at a given time. If only we could be more like Hillary Clinton, a shining example of such moderation!
Not having any principles often works to the moderates’ advantage, since it makes their actual positions (if they even exist) much harder to pin down and critique. The far left, on the other hand, is at least honest about what they believe, even if it’s totally wrong and misguided. Moderates don’t seem to believe in much of anything at all – just whatever happens to be on the 3×5 card of acceptable, non-incendiary opinion. The only guiding principle they seem to go by is the “non-extremism” principle, which essentially makes their stated beliefs subject to whatever is politically palatable at the time. In fact, moderates aren’t a whole lot better than progressives when it comes to having open debate – they make a show of encouraging “dialogue,” but once one starts presenting “radical” ideas outside their 3×5 card, they’ll condemn him as a “wingnut” and a “dangerous ideologue”. What’s worse is they essentially try to establish themselves as the standard-bearers of “sanity” and “reason,” while gaslighting everyone else into being confined within their established boundaries of “reasonable disagreement.”
Punching Right, Moving the Overton Window Left
The so-called “established boundaries” are constantly shifting. Over the past century, the net shift has indisputably been to the left. But how could this be, if these “reasonable moderates” are so committed to maintaining the vital center against extremists on both the left and the right? At the very least, why have the moderates so readily accepted the gradual leftward shift of the Overton Window, defending what once would have been considered the far left as the new “center”? Perhaps they are not quite what they tout themselves to be. Murray Rothbard, writing in The Betrayal of the American Right about one such “reasonable moderate” of an earlier era, provides some insights here:
In 1953, the first mainstream recognition of the new libertarian movement appeared, in the form of a vituperative “brown-baiting” book by a young Methodist minister denouncing “extremists” in the Protestant churches. The book, Ralph Lord Roy’s Apostles of Discord: A Study of Organized Bigotry and Disruption on the Fringes of Protestantism,14 had been a thesis written under the high priest of Left-liberalism at Union Theological Seminary in New York, Dr. John C. Bennett. This work was part of a popular genre of the time that might be termed “extremist-baiting,” in which the self-evidently proper and correct “vital center” is defended against extremists of all sorts, but most particularly right-wingers. Thus, Roy, devoting one perfunctory chapter to attacking pro-Communist Protestants, spent the rest of the book on various kinds of right-wingers, whom he divided into two baleful groups: Apostles of Hate, and Apostles of Discord. In the slightly less menacing Ministry of Discord (along with pro-Communists and various rightists) was, in chapter 12, “God and the ‘Libertarians,’” placed for some reason in quotation marks. But, quotation marks or not, under attack or not, we had at least gained general attention, and I suppose we should have been grateful to be placed in the Discord rather than the Hate category.
Roy’s behavior described here is all-too-common among the moderates of today. They claim to be against “extremists” of all sorts, but the vast majority of the time they choose to punch right. This is certainly not due to the lack of left-wing extremists (as countless violent incidents initiated by Antifa and Black Lives Matter have demonstrated) but rather to the fact that many of these “moderates” have no genuine intention of safeguarding the “vital center”. This is because they are, in fact, leftists attempting to come across as more “reasonable” than how their actual views would be perceived if honestly expressed. As a result, the Overton Window has constantly shifted to the left. Right-wing “extremists” are vilified while left-wing extremists are largely ignored. Meanwhile, even “moderate” right-wingers (i.e. the alt-lite) are lumped in with the “extremists” (i.e. the alt-right) despite their desperate attempts at disavowal. Left-wing violence is defended as “free speech,” while right-wing speech is condemned as “violence.”
To be a moderate, then, is to be an unprincipled coward who often aids and abets the far left. As Rothbard recounts in detail throughout his aforementioned book (spanning the bulk of the 20th century), the “respectable” conservatives and “respectable” liberals, by punching almost exclusively to the right while largely granting a free pass to left-wing social democrats and communists before the Cold War era, effectively moved the Overton Window so far to the left that by the end of World War Two social democrats were considered to be on the “right”:
During the first postwar year, 1945–46, I entered Columbia Graduate School, where the intellectual atmosphere was oppressively just more of the same. By early 1946 the veterans had come back from the war, and the atmosphere on campus was rife with the heady plans and illusions of various wings of the Old Left. Most of the veterans had joined the newly formed American Veterans Committee (AVC), a group confined to World War II vets with the high hope of replacing the old and reactionary American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. During these years, the AVC on campus was split between the Social Democrats on the right and the Communists and their allies on the left, and these factions set the parameters of political debate on campus.
Indeed today, the effects of this trend can be readily observed. For even during the McCarthyite era where communism was heavily stigmatized, the tide of social democracy (which many still fail to recognize as simply a soft form of communism) continued unchallenged. The result, of course, is the out-of-control federal apparatus that we have today, with the scores of useless departments of which any suggestion of abolition is met with horror and disgust by the “reasonable moderates.” The massive federal budget is unconditionally defended from cuts and mere reductions in projected increases by these same “moderates.” Social democracy is now left, right, and center, and it is precisely the “reasonable moderates” who are the most ardent defenders of this status quo. Frederic Bastiat warned us of this fate long ago in the following points of his 1830 “electoral manifesto”:
- “Everyone wants moderates at any price; we fear extremists above all … since the center is definitely between the right and the left, we conclude that this is where moderation lies.”
- “[A]re those who want to prevent the return of such excesses extremists? I mean those who want to inject a dose of moderation into spending; those who want to moderate the action of the people in power … those who do not want the nation to be exploited by one party rather than another.”
- “Left to itself, [government] soon … increases beyond all reason … It no longer administers, it exploits … It no longer protects, it oppresses.
- “This would be the way all governments operate … if the people did not place obstacles in the way of governmental encroachments.”
- “[W]here can there be liberty when the government, in order to sustain enormous expenditures … [must] invade the sphere of private industry, to narrow incessantly the circle of individual activity, to make itself merchant, manufacturer, postman and teacher … Are we free if the government … subjects all its activities to the goal of enlarging its cohort of employees, hampers all businesses, constrains all faculties, interferes with all commercial exchanges in order to restrain some people, hinder others and hold almost all of them to ransom?”
- “Are we expecting [government] to restrain itself if we strengthen it and become less active if we send it reinforcements? Do we hope that the spoils it can take from us will be refused … Should we expect a supernatural nobility of spirit … in those who govern us, while for our part we are incapable of defending … our dearest interests?”
- “Electors, be careful. We will not be able to retrieve the opportunity if we let it slip. … We should not shut our eyes to the evidence.”
- [L]iberty…are we going to destroy its work with our votes?
Bastiat saw the trend of the Overton Window during his time. And he saw who was responsible for this trend – none other than the “reasonable moderates,” compromising with the expansion of state power at every turn and condemning those who resisted as “extremists.” The situation is no different today, and it is the moderates above all who must be attacked and exposed as either the cowards (i.e. the “cuckservatives” of today who allow the Overton Window to be pushed left), or villains that they are (i.e. the “liberals” who actively aid the far left in actively pushing the window further in that direction).
A “Moderate” Agenda?
Are moderates devoid of any and all principles, then? Not necessarily. To the extent that modern-day moderates in the West adhere to a set of political principles, they mostly revolve around inching us closer to a global government through an “invade the world, invite the world” foreign policy and gaslighting all dissenters into submission via their gradual leftward shifting of the Overton Window. Virtually every “respectable politician” is an active promoter of this agenda, from John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio on the neoconservative “right” to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer on the liberal interventionist left (as can be seen by Congress and the Deep State’s apparent desire to provoke World War 3 with Russia). Mainstream media pundits at CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News are also consistently reliable promoters of the War Party agenda (as could be seen on full display after Trump’s missile strike on Syria in April). Conversely, these “respectable,” “moderate” voices lose their minds whenever Trump announces a policy decision geared toward restricting immigration, like the RAISE Act or repealing DACA. Any move toward political decentralization such as Brexit or the various Eurosceptic movements is always condemned by moderates as “right wing extremism,” (at times for very telling reasons). As for the “exceptions” exemplified by Catalonia and Scotland, upon closer inspection they appear to not be genuine exceptions given the pro-EU nature of their “secessionist” movements. It turns out globalists are perfectly fine with people seceding from their parent country so long as they’re willing to stay in an even bigger one.
Is all this a coincidence? Are the moderates of today simply converging on the ideas that happen to be part of the current Republican/Democrat overlap? Perhaps, but given the consistent pattern of aiding and abetting the left that moderates have displayed throughout the past century, as previously discussed, it is far more likely that moderates have an agenda of their own that is similar to that of the far left, if not identical to it. That agenda being, of course, the establishment of as large of a State as possible, so as to maximize the power and scope of their tax/regulatory regime and its redistributive potential while minimizing the ability of tax victims to escape. The larger the State, the further the locus of ultimate decision-making is from individual private property owners, and thus the further we are from a libertarian social order. Libertarianism in practice, then, means radical decentralization from globalism down to full-fledged private property norms. As it currently stands, “reasonable moderates” are aligned with the left in their promotion of globalism at every turn. If we libertarians wish to realize our goal of achieving a private property-based social order, we must oppose globalists of all stripes, especially those “moderates” dressed in sheep’s clothing. They must be exposed for the intellectually dishonest cowards they are.