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Jesus Christ, stop whining about “libertarian purity tests”

Interchange between me and Jessi Cowart on FB, starting here:

Jessi Cowart for LPTexas Vice Chair:

I’m a minarchist, and I reject the notion that this makes me any less libertarian than my brethren who identify as anarchists. This movement is about fighting the state. It’s not a pissing contest to see who’s more “hard core.”


You are less libertarian. You’re partly libertarian and partly statist. A mini-statist.


Your purity test is tired. Anarchists who try to arbitrarily move the goal post on what it means to be libertarian – and call their allies statists – aren’t helping to advance liberty.

This is the fault line upon which the LP is fracturing. I am PRO-liberty, not just anti-state.


I am anti-state because I’m pro-liberty.

People who whine about purity tests usually do so because they dislike being reminded that they are not really being true to their core principles. That’s your problem, not mine. I am generous enough to include in the libertarian umbrella you mini-statists. Don’t complain if we point out that consistent libertarianism is actually anarchism. If that bothers you, stop talking about it or asking us to pretend like you don’t have some statist/socialist deviations. I’m happy to include minarchists in the libertarian tent, just as I’m also happy to work with conservatives, classical liberals, and even lefists, on some shared issues, but I don’t pretend they are libertarians.

You are welcome to join our tent but don’t expect those of us who are more consistent in our principles and devotion to human liberty to dishonestly pretend that your statism is libertarian. You should simply be grateful that consistent libertarians (anarchists) are willing to consider you minarchists fellow libertarians and appreciate the parts you happen to be good on and to overlook your more problematic views–as long as you don’t keep bringing it up. Don’t ask for more than that. Instead of trying to justify the need for the state, which is only going to get criticized by consistent libertarians, let’s just focus on the 95% we do agree on and push for and work for liberty.

I don’t see anarchist libertarians trying to purge minarchists, but when they say things like “well I am not an anarchist,” this is just a disguised (and dishonest) way of really saying “I oppose aggression most of the time–except for a few cases where it’s ‘necessary,'” then don’t be surprised if other libertarians disapprove of this condoning of aggression, and don’t then run around whining that your feelings are hurt. If you don’t want to be criticized for advocating aggression by fellow anti-aggression libertarians, stop talking about it.


You have a good day, Stephan.


You too, and I’m glad you are a libertarian. Don’t get me wrong. If there are ancaps running around looking to pounce on minarchists who are not pure enough, for no reason, they should not be doing that. There is no reason our “broad tent” can’t focus on the liberty issues we agree on and the evils of the state we all agree on. But if a minarchist starts trying to attack anarchists or runs around defending the state, they have to expect blowback. So just focus on what you are really good on, the liberty stuff, and what we have in common, the liberty stuff.

Re your initial defensive and unprovoked post,

“I’m a minarchist, and I reject the notion that this makes me any less libertarian than my brethren who identify as anarchists.”

This is a pointless thing to say. It’s a way of avoiding substance by saying you “reject” it. Who cares if you “reject” it? Either the state is justified or it isn’t. And this “identify as” seeks to minimize substantive issues of political philosophy and treat them as just some preference. Libertarians are those who believe rights can only be violated by aggression, and the most consistent libertarians are anarchists because they understand that the state itself necessarily employs aggression. If you are a minarchist then you either don’t understand that the state necessarily employs aggression; or you think aggression is sometimes justified. Both are simply wrong. So we anarchists, who are just consistent opponents of aggression, see you guys are not quite consistent. But you are still libertarians and our allies, I think. I explain this in chapters 3 and 2 of my book, viz “What It Means To Be an Anarcho-Capitalist” and “What Libertarianism Is”, in Legal Foundations of a Free Society.

The problem is you simply posted this out of the blue. If you don’t want to defend your minarchism, that’s fine. If you don’t want to have a debate with anarcho-libertarians about the 2% we disagree on, that’s fine. But get the chip off your shoulder. Don’t just provoke us and then get huffy when you get what you want.

But as I said earlier, if you are responding to some unprovoked attacks on you by anarcho-libertarians, they should not be doing that; OTOH you didn’t provide context, so how are we to know why you all of a sudden flew off the handle like this.

“This movement is about fighting the state. It’s not a pissing contest to see who’s more ‘hard core.'”

I totally agree. I think it helps, in fighting the state, to actually know what’s wrong with it, but that’s a different issue. And you have to realize the LP (electoral politics) universe is only a tiny subset of libertarianism as a political philosophy. Libertarians are not all “activists.” Those looking to delve into our principles and understand political philosophy better, and sometimes this requires explaining the problem with the state per se and that anarchism is the only consistent libertarian view to hold. If this hurts your feels, then don’t read it.

In response to Caryn Ann Harlos’s comment:

I for one an happy to have minarchist libertarians in the party. They don’t have to be anarchists (but I do want actual libertarians, unlike some past iterations of the LP). We are not a debate club and if minarchists don’t want to debate this with anarchists, they should be left alone and appreciated for the pro-liberty stuff they favor and support and do. If there are ancap assholes pestering minarchists this needs to stop.
We need to remember that in times past, the assumption was minarchism and anarchists were regarded as the red-headed step-child. Some libertarians define libertarianism so as to exclude anarchists; e.g., most Objectivists (e.g. Adam Mossoff here) and Jeffrey Miron in Libertarianism, From A to Z, who arrogantly and dishonestly and smugly writes: “libertarianism accepts a role for government in a few, limited areas: small government, not anarchy” (see here).
It is clear now that most libertarians now are Austrian-influenced, principled (not utilitarian), anarchist, and anti-IP; they are more radical since the Ron Paul revolution swole our numbers, even if they are less well-read “in books” than in the past. Hence the old joke, “what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist? A: About 6 months.”
Note I said libertarians, not “Libertarians.” The LP has always lagged behind more principled and radical libertarians, being more pragmatic, kiss-ass, utilitarian, but that has changed especially with the Mises Caucus takeover in Reno in 2022 (see Aggression and Property Rights Plank in the Libertarian Party Platform). So now it’s clear that principled and consistent libertarianism is anarchist. Yet hewing to our roots and our common enemy and our very name, we are willing to consider minarchists as our fellow libertarians, even if we disagree about the state.
Given that we are willing to welcome them, to invite them into our home, so to speak, it’s rude to interrogate and berate them for the things that we think they are wrong about. But if they bring it up … they should expect to hear a response.
Again, the LP and libertarian movement activism need not be a debating club. If there are asshole LP ancaps out there seeking out minarchists to attack for no reason, that’s rude and uncalled for. This woman did not specify what she was responding to, so it comes off as just venting and chip-on-shoulder bullshit, and attacking anarchists for being anarchists and for having our principles. We do have our principles and if you join ranks with anarcho-libertarians and then start attacking our anarchism and defending the state, you are doing to get a respond, and you should. Focus on the job at hand, instead of being insecure about your inconsistencies or about your feelings being hurt when ancaps rightly observe that minarchists are partly statist. Or give it 6 months.
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