There’s a conundrum with which liberalism is faced. Even men such as Mises and Hayek have been accused of succumbing to this mortal flaw: regarding one’s ideological opponents’ motives as benevolent. As much of a contrarian as I can be, even I generally don’t accuse my opponents of being malevolent monsters, although the ideas, programs, and methods they embrace are often dependent entirely upon the infliction of violence, or the threat of physical harm; and the outcomes wrought upon humanity by these designs are often the worst sorts of evils.
But mankind, being prone to mistakes, has developed a spirited sense of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. It is in this spirit that I think many have ultimately failed their own convictions, a sort of hubris, if you will.
It is precisely because we often desire the same outcomes as our opponents (equality, charity, compassion, brotherhood, etc.) that we understand they are motivated by some benevolence, right? And so, we tend to dismiss their methods as merely misinformed. “They are not bad people,” we conclude. But we need to accept the very real possibility that we’ve reached this conclusion in error.
Note that many of our arguments rely on an examination of method: “It’s not fair to tax anyone at all, because it’s theft!” “Wage and price controls violate our freedom to enter mutually beneficial contracts.” “Zoning law is a usurpation of property rights.” And so on. We spend all day, every day, discussing and arguing in favor of the merits of voluntarism, of charity, compassion, co-operation and liberty. Yet you would not know this by our opponents’ war-cries. Every discussion or debate is filled with vitriol, with accusations: Libertarians are greedy, money-whores, succubi to the wealthy elite, oppressors of the poor and less-fortunate. Nearly without fail, these characterizations are perpetrated.
Step back for a moment and notice the cruel, cruel irony: We, who give full faith and credit to the motives of our opponents, are often accused by those very same opponents, of the basest motives imaginable. We, who take notice of a common goal with our opposites, are often accused of lying, or otherwise misrepresenting our actual positions. We are accused of sinister machinations masquerading as a struggle for freedom and equality. We do not implicate our ideological opponents as necessarily bad people, we merely intend to demonstrate that their methods are flawed and their means are immoral. If they happen to be personally offended when their programs are labeled “communist,” then perhaps they should re-examine the beliefs upon which their ideas rest. On the contrary, our opponents revel in each and every opportunity to paint us as evil, deceptive people — one ad hominem after another. They don’t argue that our proposals are immoral, instead they argue that we are liars.
Beware he who commits these attacks, they are not to be trusted or reasoned with.
So consider this a warning: When you encounter these folk, reconsider your assumptions about them: they are not good people. Recognize them for what they are — liars, bastards, manipulators, expose their means as violent and immoral, and avoid those who self-identify in support of these means. These men are your enemies.
Honest men will turn upon recognizing the sometimes painful truth: what we’ve done or believed in or supported in the past was wrong, but we no longer have to perpetuate it.