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Libertarians Are Bored of Politics

Long skeptical of government intrusion, the libertarian movement is increasingly turning away from politics, embracing anarchism as the most effective way to achieve their free-market goals.

Anarchist libertarian Derrick Broze talks up DIY governance at this year's LibertyFest NYC. Photo by James Babb

This Saturday, Derrick Broze, a dreadlocked anarchist from Texas, was sitting alone reading in the VIP room of New York City's LibertyFest while preparing to give a speech on how to dismantle the government. As the room filled with what Broze referred to as "celebretarians," he sat absorbed in his book, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia.


Among the anarcho-libertarians who turn out for this annual convention for the various sects of the freedom-loving fringe, Broze's résumé is impressive and includes such items as selling non-GMO seeds and hosting an anarchist talk show. Earlier this month, he was arrested outside Houston City Council for "disorderly conduct" and "abusive language" during a demonstration against water fluoridation. He's what he calls an "agorist," or an anarchist-leaning libertarian, which, according to the New Libertarian Manifesto, means he's more focused on direct action than politics.

Since Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign fizzled out—and arguably before then—libertarians like Broze have grown increasingly skeptical of the political process. Already weary of government involvement in economic and social matters, libertarians have lately been asking themselves whether "libertarian politician" is a contradiction in terms.

"The reason we have this love and worship of government is that there are a lot of us running around with mommy and daddy issues we haven't dealt with. Until we do, we're going to keep crying out for someone else to take care of us, for somebody else to do the tough work for us," said Broze, who advocates for what he calls DIY governance, which means he supports community farms, Bitcoin commerce, and radical communes. Broze argues that the libertarian deference to the political system has gotten in the way of the movement's ability to achieve its goals.


"Some of you are still fighting in the political arena," he said, "but the point is to be a living example of whatever truth it is you believe in."

Other LibertyFest attendees seemed to be in agreement, emphasizing that libertarian politicians—and the cult that surrounds the most popular ones—are contrary to the ideals of the movement: maximizing autonomy, DIY governance, and minimizing federal power over individuals. Why wait for your representative to legalize weed when you can smoke it in your RV? Why use taxed currency when you can buy plane tickets to Galt's Gulch with Bitcoins?

"I was a big Ron Paul supporter in 2012," said Marcel Fontaine, a gay anarcho-capitalist who has become something of a celebrity in the libertarian blogosphere. "Then I went to [2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate and former New Mexico governor] Gary Johnson, and then I became full-on 'an-cap." If Johnson does run again in 2016, I wish him good luck. I don't believe in the voting process anymore, or federal elections."

Despite this dissatisfaction with politics, libertarian politicians haven't given up on the democratic process as a solution to government interference and overreach. In fact, Johnson, the keynote speaker at LibertyFest, has been preparing a high-profile lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates to open up the debates to third-party candidates. Now out of office and working as a CEO for a marijuana company, Johnson is reportedly planning to run for president again in 2016. But although he's loved by libertarians for his Putanesque demonstrations of grit—including scaling Everest and paragliding in hot-gas balloons—he might not be able to lure the movement back to the polls in 2016. (He got about 1 percent of the vote in 2012, which was one of the Libertarian Party's best showings.)


In a speech to attendees Saturday, he did attempt to address the apparent contradictions between his libertarian ideas and the pursuit of higher office, emphasizing his background as an entrepreneur and his hands-off approach to governance in New Mexico.

"I said I was going to bring a common-sense business approach to government," Johnson said. "Issues first, politics last."

"The private sector creates jobs," he said, noting that he vetoed more legislation during his two terms as governor than the other 49 governors combined. "But I did create an environment where I thought that the playing field was more level."

Disgraced former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran launches a comeback

Earlier in the day, disgraced former Queens City Councilman Dan Halloran took the stage as LibertyFest's "surprise guest," giving his first speech since July, when the Republican was found guilty on federal corruption charges for facilitating tens of thousands of dollars in campaign bribes. In an ironic turn, Halloran blamed the federal government for his breach of conduct, defending his decision to facilitate a payoff scheme to get a Democratic state senator on the New York mayoral ballot as a Republican.

"I did it for a black Democrat who was going to run on the Republican line," he said. "That's a threat to the establishment, a threat to the party bosses. That's a threat to the political system that wants everyone to be held to the system. It would have been an independent voice. It would have been a choice."

Halloran won't be running for office anytime soon, mostly because he's a convicted felon. But when I asked if he would ever live off the grid in true libertarian fashion, Halloran demurred. "I think that's more the anarchist component of the libertarian movement," he said. "Like Ron Paul or [Kentucky Senator and presumptive 2016 presidential candidate] Rand Paul, I think we can still do things to fix the republic."

But for now at least, most attendees at LibertyFest seem more inclined to hide out on communes and dream up secessionist plots than knock on doors for candidates like Johnson, or Rand Paul. Ian Cioffi, the organizer of LibertyFest, was skeptical of the younger Paul's appeal among attendees.

"I think Rand learned from his father that if you want to further the libertarian political agenda, you're gonna have to make concessions along the way," he said. "The purists of the Ron Paul crowd do not accept this."

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