I wasn’t going to write anything to mark this anniversary. I can’t stand the annual rehashing, the verbal digging up of the dead, the demand that we always remember, remember, remember — but somehow never analyze, reflect, or correct.
Then Jim Bovard reminded me of something that really matters. He noted that Thomas Szasz, who just died, was one of the prominent libertarians who stayed true to his principles after that handful of villains wrought their havoc 11 years ago.
So many didn’t. So many people who claimed to be libertarian tossed their alleged principles out the window as fast as they could make the throw.
Individualism? What’s that? No, let’s punish all the Arabs. Or all the Muslims. Or whoever. Non-aggression? No, we must have war-war-war! Privacy? How can we be so selfish as to think of our own petty little concerns when our government needs to protect us? The Bill of Rights? That might be okay for Americans in peaceful times, but it doesn’t apply to foreigners or in emergencies!
I didn’t understand then and I don’t understand now how people who believed in individual rights and claimed to hold solid principles of freedom could scurry like rats to groupthink and statism the moment they felt scared.
What on earth is the point of principles if you aren’t willing to live by them? How could anyone who had thought out their beliefs jettison them so automatically?
Eleven years later, where are those sellouts? Some are still around and doing as well as ever. A certain nationally prominent “libertarian” radio host discovered after 9-11 that being a neo-con pays better. A few have just slunk back to libertarian positions, hoping no one would remember they sold out. Many more — people who were rising or well-established libertarian commentators in the 1990s — are just … gone. I can think of a dozen whose names you don’t even hear any more, or whose reputations shrank to nothing after their sellout.
And good. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.
As Jim and I got to talking about this, I was surprised at how much that betrayal of liberty by friends and colleagues still rankled all these years later.
But when people turn out to be something other than they claim to be it does rankle. You can never trust them again. You should never have trusted them at all. But when you look back and ask, “Where were the signs? Could I have seen that they didn’t really mean it?” … there were no signs.
One day, they seemed as staunch as the best. The next day … convenience, control, and war-war-war was all they wanted.
But to hell with them.
Today, let’s salute those who stood true. Hooray for those who understood, even in the midst of chaos and fear, that freedom still matters — who understood, in fact, that freedom and the principles behind it matter more than ever in those moments when the rest of the world is screaming for protection — or blood. Salutes to everyone who understands now and understood then that freedom gives us the path out of savagery and that tyranny serves no purpose except the purposes of tyrants.
On this dreadful anniversary, salutes and kudos to those who stood against the powerful blast of hatred, propaganda, and poisonous legislation. Salutes to those who were called “unpatriotic” or “naive” or “unrealistic” for asserting that tragedy is not an excuse for negating freedom. Salutes to you who understand (even when it’s the most vanishing minority position) that freedom works — in good times and bad.