Any public libertarian figure has been accused of not being a ‘real libertarian’ at least once. If you explore the many Facebook comment battles between libertarians, you’re sure to find someone claiming their opponent is “not a real libertarian.” If you yourself are ever accused of this, I would respond with “So what?”
Libertarians must remind one another that libertarianism itself might be wrong. To ensure we don’t fall into the same field as communists, we must look for what is true, not what is libertarian. If you’re like me, your search for what is true has led you to libertarianism, as these are often one and the same. We can celebrate that libertarians tend to base arguments off of reason and evidence, using both moral and practical arguments.
But the purpose of a debate (even among libertarians) should not be to prove who is more ideologically consistent, but rather who is more correct. Thus to accuse an opponent of not being a ‘real libertarian’ is to miss the point entirely. This is not a refutation of an argument. It’s only an attempt at ostracism. To label someone as ‘not a real libertarian’ only suggests that dogma is more valuable than truth.
A scenario similar to this occurred during the 2016 Republican Primary Election with at-the-time candidate Donald Trump. Conservative political commentators were so focused on labeling Trump as “not a true conservative”(1) (2) (3) that they missed the point entirely. Supporters were not concerned with his ideological classification, but instead the points he made. To the masses, labels do not matter. An individual that seeks allies based on a similar ideological label is only building an echo chamber for him/herself. Being surrounded by libertarians competing to be the next Mr. Libertarian only removes us further from opponents willing to challenge the concepts of libertarianism itself.
In the more familiar case of Gary Johnson, the controversy surrounding him was whether or not he was a ‘real libertarian’ (try googling ‘not a real libertarian’ and see who shows up). Granted, when running as a candidate under the Libertarian Party, this claim is somewhat justified. However, those in this debate should’ve been less focused on whether the great cake debaclecould be considered libertarian, and more focused on the effects of anti-discrimination policy itself.
Luckily, some libertarians expand their boundaries to many non-libertarian voices. Youtubers Shoe0nHead, Sargon of Akkad, Steven Crowder, Dave Rubin and Stefan Molyneux all claim to have a considerable libertarian following. While it certainly could be argued that all of these could be considered libertarian, the point remains due to all of them stating in some manner that they do not call themselves libertarian; and this is important. By associating ourselves with non-libertarians such as these, the libertarian community as a whole grows stronger. This allows us to strengthen our arguments and expand our knowledge.
If libertarians are to prevent themselves from descending into dogma, we must ensure that our goal as individuals is not to find the libertarian answer, but to find the correct one.