Both members and detractors of the Mises Caucus have had their fair share of questions and assertions about the cultural qualities of our group. In all cases, we encourage people to read our planks, in particular Plank 6, which reads as follows:
Plank 6 – Lifestyle Choices: We take no stance on the personal, cultural, or social preferences of individuals or groups. One’s lifestyle is merely an extension of their property rights. Thus, no individual or group can rightfully claim jurisdiction over the lifestyle of another. We assert only that any and all lifestyle choices must not violate the property rights of others.
The questions then become, what are the implications of adopting such a plank? What is the reasoning behind adopting it? How can an organization with such a plank function?
Through Thick and Thin
Within libertarianism, there has been a longstanding debate on the proposition that in order to arrive at a state of liberty, let alone to sustain it for any length of time, society must adopt certain cultural practices and values. Libertarianism, as we know, is a prescriptive political theory that has nothing to say about how society and culture should be; whether people should be religious or not, open minded or not, multicultural or not, and so on. Libertarianism in its purest form without any prescriptions beyond politics is “thin” libertarianism. Naturally, forms of libertarian which insist on a specific kind of society or culture in order to arrive at or maintain liberty is “thick” libertarianism.
Plank 6, by design, is exclusionary of thick libertarianism as an appropriate stance for the caucus and its representatives. The Mises Caucus does not, and will not, advocate for either bourgeois or libertine cultural norms as “the” path to liberty.
This does not mean that the Mises Caucus rejects thick libertarians themselves. It is probably impossible to find a truly “thin” libertarian who has no opinion whatsoever about what the ideal libertarian societal structure would be, and what cultural mores would best preserve liberty in the long term. The goal, then, is not to keep thick libertarians out; but rather, to ask them to leave their “thick” issues at the door when they act as members of this Caucus.
Building a Coalition and Community
There are several benefits to Plank 6 that will serve the Mises Caucus in its mission to help the Libertarian Party educate the public on liberty and economics, and provide the public with better options at the polls.
The first is that when we set our cultural preferences aside, we find that we have many more allies than we thought. Naturally, people on the opposite sides of the culture war that continues to rage on outside the borders of the Mises Caucus are going to be suspicious of one another. Most groups tend to deteriorate as people become tired of the endless bickering over these matters, until finally one side quits, leaving the group ideologically lopsided, drained of its membership, and in our case, utterly distracted from the mission.
This is why Plank 6 is enforced so vigorously, along with our codes of conduct. There cannot be trust between different people without fairness in ensuring that nobody’s social agenda is being promoted over another. The Caucus has spent significant time and effort- sometimes at the cost of otherwise good people as allies- to ensure that this “cultural neutral ground” is maintained, so that people on all sides have a high degree of confidence that our goal, first and foremost, is to make sure that all are free.
With such a coalition created and carefully preserved through our moderation activities and the planks, we create a community and a culture within the Mises Caucus that focuses primarily on what we have always wanted: A practical emphasis on activism, “showing up,” and real world work to achieve our institutional and political objectives. If people know that their workplace environment will not be one where they are ambushed by another’s cultural preferences, they will be more at ease to roll up their sleeves and work with each other despite their differences.
Freedom Unleashes Cultural Diversity
The current state of affairs in the United States and around the globe is unacceptable to libertarians of any stripe. The State loots its people directly through taxation and indirectly through the shadow tax of the Federal Reserve; it wantonly arms and abets warmongering, oppresses the poor, dictates to us our personal lives, pits neighbors against one another, and intervenes in our economic endeavors. In such an environment, the ability of any given cultural idea to assert itself and be free is terribly limited, and frequently catches unwilling bystanders who would otherwise participate in different societies.
The purpose of the Mises Caucus attempting to form such a broad coalition – from within libertarianism, not with bad ideas outside of it (an important and relevant distinction) – is to push relentlessly and effectively for a society free enough that all of these cultural experiments can manifest themselves in as voluntary a manner as possible. In that case, the different cultural experiments “thick” libertarians want to test can happen without disrupting the major political goals that we can all agree on. This goal is also why the Mises Caucus strongly promotes Decentralization in Plank 4 of our platform- breaking the State down into smaller, more localized pieces which are better representative of the wishes of the people who actually live in a given place.
In short, we will all get to try out our ideas for culture – or at least be closer to it in our lifetimes – if we are “thin” first as a political coalition taking care of common ground issues first. We may never achieve a truly stateless society, (or, with some libertarians, even want one), but we can certainly demolish strongholds of the State that we oppose in common, and localize its influence as much as possible.
A Revolution from Every Corner of Society
When Murray Rothbard could only count the number of libertarians in the world on one or two hands, times were indeed difficult for the libertarian who wanted to see results – and Rothbard was more vigorous both in theory and practical work than anyone. When the Vietnam War was dragging on and the Buckleyite Right in society was hopelessly wallowing in jingoism and war fever on perhaps the most important issue of the day, Murray looked for allies in the New Left who opposed the war without question.
This alliance eventually fell apart and, later in his life, Murray again sought allies, this time on the right wing where people had learned that war and world policing was a terrible idea, and that governments should be as small as possible. This alliance also turned out to not bear much in the way of fruit; the Right recoiled at learning proper economics just like the New Left did. To this day, the Right hardly produces constitutionalists who are resolute and principled, let alone libertarians. Sadly, Murray Rothbard passed away before these very recent years when the number of libertarians could indeed be counted on more than two hands.
The situation we currently find ourselves in is not one where libertarians have to desperately shop around for anyone to give us the time of day. It is true that we are certainly small in number relative to the legions of organized statists in society; but it is also true that the number of libertarians is hitting such a critical mass, even in these recent years, that we cannot be ignored for much longer. Already, people on the right and left wing are trying to co-opt the word, “libertarian” after they have ruined the reputation of their own ideologies. Highly motivated minorities do more to move society than lazy majorities and pluralities.
Furthermore, with the Internet now at our fingertips, libertarians no longer have to make allies for the express purpose of gaining some kind of visibility in various magazines and publications. While libertarians have a ways to go in having a presence in mass media, our presence is exploding in alternative media sources. We no longer have to ask anyone permission to be ourselves and to present our ideas clearly without fear of expulsion from a publication. We do still have to worry about being de-platformed on social media, but we can always build our own online destinations if need be. We cannot be silenced so long as the Internet remains out of the clutches of the state and its censors, be they actual agents of the state or complicit industry partners.
Libertarians no longer need to make Faustian bargains with non-libertarians and non-libertarian ideas in the interest of cultural influence and relevance. That time has passed. We saw how, in the Ron Paul Revolution from 2008 to 2012, people from different corners of our American culture and even around the world began to see the value of liberty. Those who were involved in that movement know full well how culturally diverse it was, and how big the coalition under Ron was as a result. The Mises Caucus is committed to that same kind of culturally diverse, yet thoroughly libertarian coalition; no longer begging for recognition by non-libertarians who hate our ideas anyway, no longer fighting among ourselves over petty differences when we don’t even live in the same state or zip code. The Revolution lives on in the Mises Caucus, and it is Plank 6 that helps us maintain it.