One cliche about libertarians is that we are all radical individualists who expect everyone to pull his own weight and think that “The devil take the hindmost.” is a good way for a society to operate.
This stereotype, like most, is untrue. Thoughtful libertarian writers have always stressed that voluntary cooperation and charity are the best way for us to care for one another. And we have practical experience, from mutual aid societies to volunteer fire departments, that prove that these mechanisms work.
Still, it’s easy to see where people get that impression of us. There’s a certain book in which the rugged, individualist heroes really do take their bat and their ball and abandon everyone else to devil. We also have an unfortunate tendency to stress the “Just leave me alone” side of libertarianism.
But I think there may be another reason.
I’m a regular platelet donor. A couple of times a month, I’ll spend 2 hours bleeding into a machine for the benefit of strangers I’ll never meet and who will never know who I am. Not to brag, but I think that’s a fairly selfless act (full disclosure, I do get a free packet of Oreos out of it).
But when I donate, I never do it as a libertarian. I don’t wear a Ron Paul t-shirt to the donation center. I don’t band together with other libertarians and go as a group. I don’t try to pull the other donors into political conversations.
I just do it.
It’s the same for all the other community work and charitable work I do. It’s not that I, a libertarian, don’t do these things. It’s that, since I don’t do them as a libertarian, libertarians in general get no credit for these activities.
When I do explicitly libertarian work, its political or educational, so it doesn’t count like blood donation or highway clean up does.
I’m a sample size of one and you can draw any curve you like through one data point. Still, I think I’m on to something. None of the other libertarians I know are bad people. They are all active in their communities and they all care about other people.
Perhaps, for the sake of our public image, we should formthe Libertarian Services Organization.
Just so we get credit for what we do.