Over the last eight years, some libertarian activists have become progressives who support welfare, government handouts, and restrictions on free speech and freedom of association. But they still call themselves libertarians and refuse to give up the label. These people are better described as Fakertarians. Their motive for moving leftward may be a concern for racial “equity” or “social justice,” but it doesn’t excuse their deceiving readers about who they are, and whether they really are “libertarians.”
The most prominent example is Nicholas Sarwark, the former Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, who mocks opponents of welfare and government handouts as tools of the wealthy and powerful. He approvingly retweeted a progressive attacking a conservative for opposing spending trillions of taxpayer dollars to write off student loans, including for wealthy professionals and people who studied useless woke subjects in college. The conservative correctly said, “Forgiving student debt is a massive windfall to the rich, to the college educated, and most of all to the corrupt university administrators of America. No bailouts for a corrupt system. Republicans must fight this with every ounce of our energy and power.” The Sarwark-approved response claimed without any evidence that opponents of canceling student loans “represent the interests of wealth” trying “to blunt support for a popular thing.”
Taxing people to pay off other people’s student loans is at odds with traditional libertarian principles. Indeed, many libertarians believe that “taxation is theft.” Forcing taxpayers to pay off student loans is also highly regressive and unfair. It forces people who didn’t go to college and have fairly modest incomes to pay off the student loans of people who did go to college and tend to have higher incomes. Even honest progressives admit that suspending or forgiving student loans is highly regressive. Writing in the Washington Post, Matthew Yglesias, who co-founded the progressive website Vox, pointed out that when student loan repayments were suspended recently, high-income people benefited most, because high-income borrowers tend to have costly professional degrees that enable them to get rich. The economic consequences, he said, were “awfully lopsided….medical doctors have received $48,500 in relief versus $29,500 for people with law degrees, $4,500 for people with bachelor’s degrees, and a measly $2,000 for those who didn’t finish their degree and are objectively most in need of help.”
Writing off people’s loans after they benefited from is unjust, says Timothy Sandefur, a libertarian constitutional lawyer and author. Sandefur points out that the Founding Fathers hated canceling debts, because it’s unfair to let someone benefit from a loan and then refuse to repay it: “The abolition of debt is one of only three things that The Federalist Papers expressly calls an ‘improper or wicked’ idea.” He continues, “The founders, being more well versed in the history of politics than practically any politician today, had in mind the consequences of debt-abolition in ancient Greece & Rome, where abolishing debt destroyed credit, leading to financial catastrophe and class war.” And ancient sages also opposed debt cancellation as inimical to the rule of law: “Cicero put the point most simply. ‘And what is the meaning of an abolition of debts,’ he wrote in De Officiis in 44 B.C., ‘except that you buy a farm with my money; that you have the farm, and I have not my money?'”
Other libertarians may view private property rights as sacrosanct. But Sarwark views existing distributions of property as inequitable and unjust, even if blacks have less money than whites for reasons other than racism: “What is important is that the libertarian analysis of social inequities is structural and institutional and not a matter of bad people with racist/sexist views causing intentional harm to others.” Sarwark retweeted Deray McKesson’s call for “abolition” of the police — the very people who enforce property rights by arresting robbers and thieves — and his call for a “world” that moves “beyond policing.”
When Sarwark temporarily chaired the Libertarian Party, it turned its back on its historic support for freedom of association by applauding Supreme Court decisions that rewrote Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to expand private employers’ liability for hiring decisions. In doing so, Sarwark and his cronies ignored libertarian law professors’ argument that “when Congress increases the exercise of its own authority” by imposing new rules on the private sector, “the courts should adopt the narrowest *plausible* meaning of the statute,” not the broadest. “If Congress is going to use ambiguous language, it makes it that much more difficult for anyone to know what the statute is actually going to do, and object on that basis,” a libertarian law professor pointed out.
Under Sarwark, the LP engaged in fact-free race-baiting, and erroneously listed “Michael Brown” and his death as an example of “systemic” racism and “extrajudicial killings, and blatant violence toward black communities” by police. But Brown’s death was neither a wrongful killing, or a race-based killing. The Washington Post reported in 2015 that “Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown,” according to the Justice Department. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, “It was reasonable for police Officer Darren Wilson to be afraid of Michael Brown in their encounter last summer, a Justice Department investigation concluded, and thus he cannot be prosecuted for fatally shooting” Brown. An 86-page report by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found that both physical evidence and “credible” witnesses supported Officer Wilson’s version of an event that triggered looting and rioting in Ferguson. Sarwark and his cronies showed a contempt for due process in ignoring this evidence and the findings based on it.
Another example of a libertarian-turned-progressive who wouldn’t give up the libertarian label was Cathy Reisenwitz. Despite being a self-described “anarcho-capitalist libertarian,” she attacked Democratic Senator Joe Manchin for not being left-wing enough or anti-capitalist enough on economic matters. She attacked him for supposedly being in favor of “austerity” because he merely wanted to spend $1.5 trillion more rather than $3.5 trillion more, the way Joe Biden does. She agreed with Darrell Owens’ tweet that “Manchin is making me very sympathetic to direct action right now. I am not doing this again and spending another ten years defending against austerity just for a 2 year chance to expand public services again in 2031 and be squandered by the next Lieberman/Manchin asshole.”
Reisenwitz also claimed that you can’t be a libertarian unless you think “all people are equal,” even though human beings vary widely in intelligence, skill, and willingness to work hard, and thus are anything but equal. That’s why wealth is not equally distributed in a free society that rewards hard work and intelligence.
Ironically, Reisenwitz, like Sarwark, labels self-described libertarians as fake libertarians if they are not hostile enough to conservatives, viewing libertarians who work with conservatives as evil collaborators.