Libertarian Opinion

7 Signs You Might be a Fundamentalist Libertarian

The fundamentalist starts with moral condemnations. In a debate with a fundamentalist they quickly resort to denouncing opponents as immoral or evil. Since the fundamentalist assumes what they believe the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, then anything someone else believes isn’t. Not only are their beliefs automatically wrong but also the one disagreeing is automatically assumed to have moral flaws.

For the fundamentalists opponents are never sincere. There are never simple errors involved. Nor can the fundamentalist ever contemplate that they might be the one who is wrong. It simply isn’t possible, they have the “word” and it is authoritative.- Anonymous @ Moorfield Storey Institute

According to the Moorfield Storey Blog, fundamentalism is not limited to religion. It is also present among libertarians. According to the Free Dictionary, a fundamentalist is a participant in …

a usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

The author of the blog piece goes on to list the following characteristics of fundamentalists:

  1. the need to force reality to fit his ideology or belief, rather than adjust his beliefs to fit reality
  2. the belief that he can speak out on almost any issue, even on those where he is uninformed.
  3. the belief that her ideology answers all questions.
  4. a focus on moral condemnations of opponents
  5. the belief that opponents are not sincere in their beliefs
  6. the tendency to ignore new facts and continue repeating the same mantra over and over again
  7. the feeling that there is hardly ever any need to change her mind.

I would add black and white thinking to this list. Do you remember in Star Wars Episode 3 when Obi-Wan said that only a Sith deals in absolutes? For a long time, I thought he was talking about Ayn-Rand-type absolutes and objectivity (“‘There are no absolutes,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that they are uttering an absolute.”).

But then I finally figured it out. It means that only a Sith deals in false dichotomies like “you’re either with me or you’re against me” or “you either love everything about statists or you’re plotting to shoot them as they sleep at night.” This is black and white thinking. Two extreme options are put on the table as if they were the only options. In reality, there is a wide continuum of different options.

I was amused by one person’s response to my Statists are not the Enemy post because it falls precisely into the black-and-white thinking trap. Since I’m not saying that I hate the state, I must be saying that we should love it and treat it as an ally.

He claims that expressing contempt for the State is an ad hominem. Are we SUPPOSED to love the State? Are we supposed to embrace it? … If he were preaching non-violence, I’d agree with that. But the State is NOT our ally, and we would be foolish to treat it as such.

I have myself suffered an on-again off-again affliction of the fundamentalist mindset. And I can clearly recognize a lot of fundamentalist tendencies in the libertarian community. Right off the top of my head, Stefan Molyneux strikes me as, in many ways, a fundamentalist. There are many, many others.

Fundamentalist insights are not all bad. The non-aggression principle (NAP) is a powerful tool. At the same time, the fundamentalist position is that the NAP is all that is needed when making political decisions. For me, the NAP is just the beginning of the ethical decision-making process. I also want to know if hierarchy, exploitation, sexism, racism, collectivism, bullying and other undesirable behaviors are involved or implicated before I agree to participate.

When I bring this argument up, the fundamentalists sometimes call me a communist. This is only further evidence of a fundamentalist mindset. If I don’t strictly adhere to the libertarian orthodoxy of NAP and NAP only, then I must be at the opposite extreme from them. For those who don’t understand that communism can be stateless and voluntary, that ends in the moral condemnation (and ad hominem) that is, “George Donnelly is a communist!” LOL.

Can you honestly recite the below paragraphs? No libertarian, scholar or ideology has all the answers. And, even if it does, a healthy skepticism is a good idea. It will not only help you catch any of your own fundamentalist tendencies, but it will make you a more credible and effective advocate for life and liberty.

I freely admit I’ve been wrong before. Not just once or twice, but with human consistency. I’ve changed my mind repeatedly on matters as new evidence presented itself. I took the so-called “hard core” libertarian position that gay people should not be allowed to marry because it was expanding the state and they could get all the rights of marriage privately [or any fundamentalist position]. I was very, very wrong. That statement is simply not true, as I learned. When faced with evidence that disputed my belief I changed my belief.

I know that in the past I was mistaken, not evil, just wrong. And since I know that my errors were good faith errors I can’t automatically assume that the errors of others are anything aren’t the same. I also know that since I have been wrong before, I could be wrong again and that in any such discussion or debate I just might be the one in error.  I can’t automatically reject information that doesn’t correspond with my conclusions on various issues.

Have you survived fundamentalist tendencies? Tell me about it!

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

9 replies on “7 Signs You Might be a Fundamentalist Libertarian”

Did Obi-Wan out himself as a sith? He stated “only a Sith deals in absolutes” isn’t that statement in itself an absolute, thus he was dealing in absolutes…. Oh no!

No, I’m just kidding. I couldn’t help it.

BUT seriously,

I love the fact you are questioning absolutes and stating that other elements need to be factored in.

1. the need to force reality to fit his ideology or belief, rather than adjust his beliefs to fit reality

I think that has a huge part of this. We need to stick to our philosophy so much that we have to alter reality to make it work sometimes. I like to say that there is much to be said about ambiguity.

This is a fantastic post George. I’ve survived fundamentalist religion myself, and I need to remain ever-vigilant against applying those same patterns of thought to new philosophies and practices.

Libertarian here. The foundation of libertarianism is non-aggression. That is, it’s morally wrong to initiate violence against someone. I can’t think of a more harmless thing to be a fundamentalist in…

Johnny, that is a different meaning of “absolute” than what is meant in the movie tho.

Glad you guys liked it.

Martin, the problem comes in when, instead of talking to people and treating them as humans, one uses the NAP to club them over the head as being evil statists. Another problem is when someone says that the NAP is not enough and then gets called a communist.

Fundamentalism is the problem. Not what you are fundamentalist about.

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