One accusation I have seen repeatedly leveled at libertarians, by people who see themselves as being in the mainstream, is that libertarians must be angry. Just because we speak out against the use of coercion, and don’t fall for exceptions based upon — well, anything, we must be angry?
Now, I won’t deny I have known a couple of angry libertarians. And angry conservatives and angry liberals too, for that matter. Considering human nature, and with all else being equal, you might imagine the percentages are comparable.
On the other hand, a philosophy that rejects aggression seems ill-suited to angry people. Angry people are drawn to revenge and punishment. If a libertarian is consistent, revenge and punishment (beyond restitution to the individuals directly harmed by an act of aggression or theft) are impossible to justify.
To assume a person must be angry just because he speaks out when he see things wrong with the world makes no sense. Are you angry when you say the house needs fresh paint, or when you mention to someone that your car needs gas? Neither am I angry when I point out that coercion is wrong, and that I do not want any individual, or any group, using it against others on my behalf. It is just the way it is.
Now, I might be angry if I know my house needs to be painted, but someone uses coercion or theft to prevent me from painting it. Or if I see someone forcing others to paint his house against their will. And, knowing that liberty would solve most of the real and imagined problems in society, I get more than a little frustrated when popular pundits and powerful “puppeticians” propose the opposite — and then pretend to be surprised when the problems inevitably get worse.
Perhaps the angry label is applied because libertarians are not ashamed to speak out. Silence changes nothing, and it gives an illusion of consent where none exists. I prefer to give fair warning and point out the lines in the sand. No one seems too shocked that liberals/conservatives speak out; only that those who don’t buy into that false dichotomy speak up.
I feel bad for those who have hitched their wagon to the twin horses of coercion and theft. The choice was theirs to make, and I wonder if the accusation is an attempt to put libertarians on the defensive.
Kent McManigal is a freelance writer who sometimes offers commentary on our websites. Contact him at: email@example.com