My friend Ari Armstrong also recently sent me this e-mail, which he has also graciously allowed me to reprint here, since it was just so damn fantastic. (You might recall that Ari used to be a libertarian activist.)
I thought you might enjoy (or at least find perversely humorous) these criteria for earning a Lights of Liberty Award from Advocates for Self-Government.
This is from “Liberator Online: a Libertarian president in 2016?” dated August 9, 2005.
So here are two ways to earn the award:
1) Letters to the Editor: get 3 or more letters published that use the words “libertarian” or “libertarianism” in a positive light.
2) Public Speaking: give 3 or more prepared speeches to a predominately non-libertarian audience, using the words “libertarian” or “libertarianism” in a positive light.
This typifies the activism-without-particular-content strategy popular among many libertarians.
(Imagine if there were a similar award for “Objectivists!”)
Here’s a hypothetical example of my own design:
“Dear editor, My neighbor is a Christian libertarian vegan who believes it’s wrong to murder animals and pollute the environment with industrialization. But my other neighbor is an atheistic libertarian who claims ethics are social standards, and our society likes to eat meat, but he says society should recognize personal desires more. But I think they’re both swell, because they both say I’m a great libertarian because I want pull all U.S. troops out of the Middle East and apologize for America’s long history of global oppression. Vote Libertarian!”
Such a letter would have to count toward the award, right? And, while the views I describe are caricatured, they are fairly close to views I have heard expressed by libertarians.
I doubt that a better example of concrete-bound thinking could be invented than this contest, even by the most imaginative writer of fiction.
As Ari later noted to me, even if some people do write some reasonably good letters, the basic fact remains: the contest has no standards whatsoever. The term “libertarianism” can be given any meaning whatsoever and praised by any standard of the good. It’s as if mere mentions of the word have some kind of magic power, regardless of what is actually said. If that’s not subjectivism, I’m not sure what is.