Monday, June 12, 2017

Interview: Adam Kokesh says "Donald Trump was able to pull a lot of libertarians into his camp," explains why

This is the first part of my discussion with Adam Kokesh. Read the firstsecond, and third pieces.

Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

These are trying times for libertarians -- especially the orthodox sort.

With populism on the rise among both Republican and Democratic ranks, the Libertarian Party orbiting into near-electoral irrelevance, and seemingly little chance for change on the horizon, some might be tempted to give up on the liberty movement.

Adam Kokesh is not one of them, to say the least.

"A decorated veteran of the War in Iraq, Kokesh came to disparage war and advocate nonviolent resistance to power," Wikipedia explains. "Identifying as a libertarian, Kokesh has called for a 'new American revolution' and has announced plans to run for President in 2020 on the platform of an 'orderly dissolution of the federal government.'"

Kokesh has spread his views far and wide as a nationally-syndicated talk radio host, cable news pundit (headlining his own program at RT), and participant in several documentaries. He is perhaps as famous for his unflinching philosophy of personal liberty as he is well-known for civil disobedience, leading to high-profile run-ins with law enforcement.

Kokesh recently spoke with me about many timely topics. Some of our conversation is included below.


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Joseph Ford Cotto: During the early and middle segments of Barack Obama's administration, support for libertarian politics rose steadily. What was the cause of this?


Adam Kokesh: There was a major surge of interest in libertarianism around Ron Paul's presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. You could say that his candidacy was an overnight success decades in the making. The libertarian movement has been growing steadily because calling humanity to a higher standard of ethics is a natural part of our evolution and libertarianism is simple ethics applied consistently to politics. There really is no such thing as, "libertarian politics," because libertarianism is an anti-political philosophy, that is, it explains how we can make politics obsolete.


Cotto: By the final third of Obama's presidency, libertarianism saw a steep decline in public interest, as evinced by the populist victory of Donald Trump over limited government advocates in the GOP presidential primaries. What caused this? 
Kokesh: Donald Trump was able to pull a lot of libertarians into his camp because the Libertarian Party nominated Gary Johnson, a libertarian-leaning moderate, instead of a libertarian. I think your metric of public interest in libertarianism is flawed. For an equally inaccurate metric in the other direction, you could just as well measure interest in libertarianism by the price of bitcoin. Trying to measure interest in libertarianism through politics is like trying to measure interest in health food by counting how many gastric bypass operations are being performed.

Cotto: In American politics, labels have been overused to the extent that terms such as "conservative" and "liberal" are now essentially meaningless. Why do you suppose that this happened?

Kokesh: I wouldn't say they're meaningless, but even when they are given precise definitions, they lend themselves to imprecise and inconsistent worldviews, which is why they were embraced by the political class in the first place. The greatest trick that a politician can pull off is to present themselves in such a way that people can project their own beliefs onto them and think they agree much more than they really do. This keeps people trapped in the duopoly and the left-right paradigm creates the illusion of healthy debate. Left and right just represent different flavors of statism, so arguing left vs right is like arguing if we should commit suicide by hanging or poison. I'd rather choose to thrive!

Cotto: Not so long ago, Ron Paul-style libertarianism was often hailed as the center-right's future. Do you think it has any serious potential during the years ahead?

Kokesh: I think the "Ron Paul Period" of the libertarian movement was hugely critical for winning converts from the low-hanging fruit withing the Republican Party base. It also showed that while libertarianism can be presented within GOP politics in a way that shows people a consistent worldview, the future of libertarianism is in the Libertarian Party. Ron Paul-style libertarianism will be an effective gateway to move people from "conservatism" to libertarianism, but eventually won't be necessary.  

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