Private Institutions Are Not the Enemy of Libertarianism
Libertarians have a reputation for denigrating traditional American institutions. They deride the Superbowl as “sportsball,” sneer at mass-market entertainment as “bread and circuses.”
It goes deeper than that. As Mises Institute president Jeff Deist says:
While libertarians enthusiastically embrace markets, they have for decades made the disastrous mistake of appearing hostile to family, to religion, to tradition, to culture, and to civic or social institutions—in other words, hostile to civil society itself.
This perceived hostility to American institutions, from football to voting to religion, is counterproductive. It makes us outcasts, which makes it harder for us to sell the message of liberty to our fellow Americans. I’ve been advocating for liberty—in print, in speeches, and on radio and TV—for several years, and I’ve been a professional marketer longer than that. If you’ll permit me, I’ll lay out three reasons that participating in American institutions can help us promote liberty.
Reason #1: Strong Institutions Are an Antidote to Extremism
Extremists on the far left and the far right are no friend to liberty. Far left activists have made it illegal in some cities to call someone the wrong pronoun. The Far Right coalesced around former President Donald Trump with an almost cult-like fervor (remember alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous referring to “Daddy” Trump?).
But extremism can only thrive when traditional institutions break down. Mussolini’s black shirts were mostly angsty young men who lacked connection and were searching for meaning. They found it in the state because they couldn’t find it elsewhere. Today, members of the alt-right are mostly lonely and angry. A country with robust social institutions—bowling leagues, churches, strong families, etc.—is a country where the alt-right would struggle to gain any ground.
The Far Left, too, is primarily viable because of our decaying social institutions. Many far-left activists try to divide Americans by every
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