Disregarding faux-”libertarians” of limited principles (most often associated with Koch-funded outfits in the D.C. beltway, and the Libertarian Party in the US), the most obtrusive divide between principled libertarians is not even that between the principles or strategies of limiting government (minarchism) and abolishing government (anarchism). It is the divide between those who reflexively adhere to bourgeois values as a presumed, often unacknowledged additional principle, and those who expect the application of principles to alter their lifestyles and alter social values—those with a progressive aesthetic of personal revolution. This is not accurately a class difference so much as a difference in temperament between conservative and progressive disposition, aside from theory, to which theory is sometimes made to bend.
In the progressive-temperament libertarian, some of whom frequent antiwar.com, radical theory finds application in radical practice, such as boycotting Amazon.com in solidarity for Amazon’s subserviently taking political sides in the persecution of Wikileaks. (Antiwar.com took this action despite a sacrifice of $10,000 per year in referrals from the site to Amazon.)
To the conservative-temperament libertarians most often associated with Lew Rockwell, such as Stephan Kinsella, Robert Murphy, et al., the prospect of changing buying habits is so offensive it requires an extensive series of articles, essays and arguments in various outlets, blogs, and forums—despite its supposed unimportance—to justify themselves and explain how unwise or un-libertarian it is to hold corporations to account when they side with the State. They appear insensitive to the dangers of precedent for themselves, if all web hosts fall into step with Amazon’s example.
Libertarians of bourgeois values are inherently and reflexively pro-business, regardless of hierarchical corporate decisions, or unnecessary participation in corporatism (the co-mingling of government and select corporations). Thus Rockwell, Kinsella et al. persistently refer to Amazon as a “victim,” despite Amazon’s statement insisting that they were not coerced, and the apparent sequence of events which shows Amazon acting against Wikileaks on mere inquiries—effectively passing judgment on Wikileaks’ illegality without legality involved, on the say-so of partisan officials acting extralegally. Rockwell et al. may even go so far as to interpret corporations as “benefactors”; Kinsella, the most hysterical of the anti-boycotters defending Amazon, credits Amazon with “heroically helping people avoid sales tax”, even though this is almost certainly a stand taken out of financial interest and not principle.
Rockwell et al. have an aversion to the aesthetics of social change which include “boycotts,” regardless of type or reason for the strategy, because they associate boycotts with socialism. (Rockwell even made a point to market Amazon referrals more heavily on his site as an “anti-boycott”.) The idea of making choices based on business practices besides judging the products or services themselves is also foreign. That materialism may seem to make little sense for theoreticians, unless we consider that material goods supply a bourgeois lifestyle. Likewise personal interest in a financial lifestyle is characteristic, and no doubt contributes to fascination with the financial industry (and its “banksters,” in the Rothbardian phrase). Perhaps this explains Kinsella’s bizarre choice of words, when he asked libertarians boycotting Amazon if they would also “suicidally” boycott Paypal.
To a radical practitioner of libertarian principle, on the other hand, it seems entirely reasonable that sacrifices of lifestyle might be involved in loyalty to principle, and making theory into reality. It also makes sense to question corporations insofar as they show similarities to the government’s hierarchy and bureaucracy, collectivism and anti-individualism, and insofar as they side with the State versus the citizen, or fiat versus rights.
Ideas do not live by themselves, and this divide is a useful example of that fact. Political philosophy cannot be discussed productively and accounted for in isolation, without also examining culture and physiology, within a total discussion of humanity and the enhancement of human life. This omission is an intrinsic flaw in a libertarian identity or libertarian worldview, and a limitation to any libertarian school of thought. An identity or worldview based on libertarianism is not sufficient, and must look further.