I’m a member of the Libertarian Party. A short articulation of why is “my body, my choice.” One might reasonably assume I’m referring to one’s right to choose regarding abortion or recreational drug use, and I do support both, but to claim that is the whole story would be a superficial reading of my commitment to liberty. “My body, my choice” as a maxim must extend to the choice to sell one’s own sexual services. Otherwise, it is a shallow refrain with little meaning and less impact.
It is perplexing when pro-choice advocates, with whom I largely agree, have boo to say regarding an individual’s natural right to sell their own body as a commodity. Or, even worse, when they reject that right.
Consider the positon of feminist scholar Andrea Dworkin. Regarding abortion, Dworkin claims the state has a duty to provide the legal option to terminate any pregnancy; she asserts abortion is, in fact, a civil right. This argument turns on two claims, one more controversial than the other.
The first claim is that because terminating a pregnancy is a medical procedure which only women can undergo, denying abortive services violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. The second, more provocative claim, is that the patriarchal culture in which we live and which is supported by the state, conditions toxic gender roles; men are trained and conditioned to be sexually dominant and women, against their own self-interest, to find pleasure in submission. Thus, Dworkin concludes sex is always a coercive act and becoming pregnant can never be interpreted as a free choice. Additionally, the state ought to be considered complicit in every unwanted pregnancy. Drawing again from the 14th amendment and a state’s obligation to promote gender equality, the state must provide legal means by which those pregnancies can be terminated.
Now, one can reasonably reject the premise that all sex is coercive and still recognize the fundamental right of individuals to bodily autonomy. Dworkin rightly points out the state is largely responsible for the systemic oppression and patriarchy in our society. However, when it comes to the question of whether a woman-or any individual-should be free from government reprisal for prostitution, she gives the state a pass.
Even though she argues the state must provide legal means of abortion, she contends prostitution ought to remain illegal and this puzzles me. Dworkin, a powerful communicator and writer of feminist ideas, seems to ignore the danger her theoretical arguments present to real sex workers, most of whom are women. Because the sexual marketplace remains illicit, prostitutes are left without the legal redress of monetary and physical damages incurred in their line of work. Not only are these individuals deprived of legal protections, their workplace itself is made exponentially more dangerous because it exists in the shadows.
Furthermore, those who argue for the continued prohibition of prostitution don’t seem to recognize that individuals with felony records are unlikely to break free from poverty and oppression. Having a felony diminishes the likelihood of obtaining employment and with no other means to support themselves or loved ones, individuals (again, mostly women) return to the sex trade, perpetually trapped.
Liberty is the solution to these problems, not institutionalized paternalism. The Libertarian Party recognizes, as Dworkin did, the state is culpable for perpetuating a cycle of oppression. But, by supporting an individual’s liberty to engage in the sex market with a legal safety net, the Libertarian
Party stands taller than those who simply want the freedom to terminate pregnancies or use drugs. The Libertarian Party is working to liberate those women forced into sexual slavery and to encourage voluntary individual entrepreneurship. That’s why I am a Libertarian.
As many in the liberty movement are aware, the rise of Donald Trump has resulted in an influx of alt-right ideology into libertarian circles. I discussed this extensively in my recent article, Trump Libertarians: Rise of the Anarcho-Statists, but this time I’d like to focus on one individual in particular. This individual so perfectly exemplifies the problems brought on by the recent trend of anarcho-statism: a perfect storm of fascism, general authoritarianism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. His name is Jared Howe.
Howe, who calls himself an “austro-libertarian”, was once a run of the mill anarcho-capitalist who even supported open borders. However, a look back at his work from the past few years shows a gradual descent into the dark corners of authoritarianism, a label which he no longer rejects. He has even gone as far as to advocate for fascism as a means of bringing about a libertarian society, an idea ludicrous to anyone who understands the true nature of government.
As evidenced by the growth of the United States government over the past hundred years, once you give a government the power to do something, it is almost impossible to turn back the clock. When thinking about granting a new power to a government, one must always remember that social security was supposed to be a temporary measure. Today, it has morphed into what most in politics view as a sacred cow that cannot be taken away, even if many believe that it is completely unsustainable. The idea of giving government, a group of people that most libertarians would not trust to babysit their kids, the absolute power that accompanies fascism is frankly absurd. Those in power, especially those engaging in totalitarian rule, are not typically apt to relinquishing it. Just as we rejected George W. Bush’s idea that we must abandon free-market principles to save the free-market system, we must reject Howe’s idea that we must abandon our libertarian ideals in order to bring about libertarianism.
The existence of people like Jared Howe in the dark corners of the internet is not new, nor is it surprising. What is special about this situation, however, is his presence in mainstream libertarian circles. Howe contributes to Liberty Hangout, a popular right-leaning libertarian website. Until recently, he was the assistant multimedia director for Being Libertarian, one of the largest libertarian websites on the internet. Calls for his removal from his position became louder recently after what can only be described as his rampant anti-Semitism seemed to intensify, or at least become more public.
One does not have to look far to find an example of this; in his letter announcing his resignation (which he described as a decision that “wasn’t exactly mutual”), Howe called out his critics for using “out of context screenshots” of his social media posts in order to damage his reputation. Ironically, he showed his true colors only two paragraphs later, when he accused his detractors at Being Libertarian of silencing “right-wing perspectives” on “the Jewish question.”
This, of course, is far from the only recent instance of anti-Semitic rhetoric from Howe. His social media accounts feature frequent disparaging remarks toward people of Jewish origin, as well as the use of the “three parentheses” used by neo-Nazi groups to identify Jews.
Jared’s hatred does not extend only to Jews; he has also expressed a preference for racism in general. In a Facebook post on March 10, Howe wrote “Being a leftist is worse than being a racist.” When pressed by one of his followers who contended that there is nothing wrong with racism, Howe wrote, “Being a rapist is worse than being a husband. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to be a husband.” Howe also frequently complains of immigrants from Somalia living in his home state, writing “These people need to be deported.”
This hateful collectivism is everything the liberty movement is supposed to stand against. People are to be judged as individuals, not for the actions of others who may have the same skin color, religion, or national origin as them. As the great libertarian Ron Paul once wrote, “Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups.”
Howe and others who share his worldview would dismiss my critique of judging people collectively instead of as individuals as “virtue signaling,” although Howe himself is often guilty of virtue signaling to the right. Instead of saying that it’s wrong to judge people based on the color of their skin, Howe’s virtue signaling is based upon cultural conservatism, such as his incoherent Facebook status below:
The idea that the cultural conservative (i.e. heterosexual) version of the “monogamous, pair-bonded family” is the “first and last defense” of private property is nonsensical and only serves to throw a bone to the far-right groups he attempts to appeal to. There is no reason that a homosexual couple or two (or more) people living together as roommates would not be able to defend their private property as well as or better than a traditional heterosexual family. This is not to disparage monogamous heterosexual relationships in any way; I’m in one myself, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But to say that having a preference for traditionalism is inherently libertarian is incorrect; this would be the case even if Howe’s statement above about defense of private property was true. Having a preference for something that you believe will create a better outcome is not inherently libertarian, nor is the opposite true. There’s nothing “inherently libertarian” about supporting any type of consensual relationship between adults over another; it is simply a preference. What is libertarian is believing that consenting adults should be able to do as they please, as long as they are not aggressing upon anyone else.
I sincerely applaud those at Being Libertarian who were involved with Jared’s removal from the leadership of the site, and I believe that the rest of the liberty movement should follow suit in condemning his beliefs and actions described above. I hereby call upon Justin Moldow and the rest of the Liberty Hangout team to speak out against Jared’s more incendiary and hateful beliefs. I ask the same of anyone who cares about liberty. When I started doing the research for my original Anarcho-Statists article, it hit me that I did not want prospective libertarians and the rest of the world to think that our movement is about hate, collectivist thinking, and pandering to fascists. I feel the same way today. We are a movement of people who share a common belief in self-ownership, non-aggression, and freedom, and we must never forget that.
This article originally appeared at johnmhudak.com and appears here with permission.
We had the chance to sit down with Mike Shipley a few weeks ago and talked about property, local ballot initiatives, respectability politics, and being subversive. Check it out and feel free to leave comments below!
We spoke with Caryn Ann Harlos and Larry Sharpe about the infighting in the Libertarian Party and the ways these two successful communicators overcome those challenges. And as an introduction to our first podcast, we’re joined by our fearless leader Matt Kuehnel for a brief discussion of our own beefs in our little sphere of Libertarianism. Enjoy!
I first heard the story of the Kaiser family on the radio. This is a couple who got divorced so their shared girlfriend could marry one of them and have the legal parental status of their three children. They were all in love and wanted each other to be on as equal footing as possible. The local DJ not only called it weird and “messed up”, but also said that if their kids got beat up at school, it was the parents’ fault and should be expected. I was pretty upset when I heard that, but have to admit that it’s not an unusual attitude to have about anything different from the norm. Nearly every news story on it said that the couple was getting divorced so the girlfriend wouldn’t get “jealous”, which doesn’t seem to be exactly what the family was saying about their decision.
What I don’t understand is why anyone cares? Why does the government care, and why does it matter to strangers? Should anyone have the right to tell you who to love and to spend your life with? What is the difference between legislating marriage based on an individual’s sex and/or number of partners and their race, profession, or hair color? We don’t have cookie-cutter lives yet we are expected to conform in ways many people never question.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they are not entitled to decide how other people live, nor are they entitled to cause harm to anyone who decides to live a different sort of life. Children and parents ought to anticipate a certain amount of teasing because that’s what children do. However, the use of violence is never acceptable, and violence initiated against children because of bigotry and ignorance is especially heinous. Tolerance doesn’t mean acceptance, it means you don’t get to perpetuate violence on those who don’t conform to societal norms.
Of course, when all is said and done, the government invading our personal lives is the core issue. What is the benefit to anyone of government approval? We accept their intrusion because marriage comes with legal benefits, but it shouldn’t. Instead of tax breaks for being married, how about fewer taxes for all? Instead of the government declaring who is allowed to parent a child, why not let the parents decide that? In matters where there is a dispute, those can be arbitrated, but most cases do not need state interference. There are only a few reasons for government regulating the marriage industry; one is because the government wants to control every facet of life that it can. Legislating one group’s view of morality benefits nobody except that particular group. It’s better to let society make morality judgments instead of a centrally planned force with a monopoly on violence. What would happen if the government decided tomorrow that your way of life was immoral? Another reason for government regulation of marriage is a moneymaking scheme through licensing fees, though admittedly, you would think that reason alone would make them consider more marriage alternatives just to rake in the cash. However, the everlasting entanglement of religious culture and government is far more important. This needs to end.
Marriage was, for most of western human history, a contract between families. The church was involved with making it official beginning in the 13th century and continued to increase their involvement in the process over the next several hundred years. In 1753, it became law that the church must grant marriages for them to be legal and set standards by which marriage be performed. This included a license issued by the church. When the United States formed, they kept most of the marriage laws from England. By 1837, a civil marriage became possible as the state offered an alternative to a legal church wedding. Marriage licenses in the USA, issued by the states, began as a way for the state to control race mixing, prevent polygamy, control the marrying off of children, force blood tests, and to prevent the marriages of same-sex couples.
The reasons that we have these marriage laws no longer apply. As a society, we’ve come to accept people of other races and persuasions. We marry for love, not the financial or social benefit of our parents. We have ages of consent that most people consider reasonable and that should prevent child marriages without the need for further government involvement.
The libertarian stance on this is: mind your own business and don’t try to legislate things that have nothing to do with you. This is as true for marriage as anything. We don’t need to concern ourselves with who or how many. It’s an individual choice that should only be made by the people involved. That’s what marriage in a free society should look like.
Why does society not think we could live peacefully by ourselves to do as we please, so long as we do not force ourselves on others or their property?
Would you just decide to go poisoning water wells? I mean, after all, you would still risk the punishment of other residents like you do now.
So with all these laws, why do we not have a peaceful society by now?
There are a lot of causes and majority are based in political actions, but now we have the knowledge and means to accomplish this goal. Not only that, but it can be done by the proper means intentionally through peaceful secession, rather than that of a governmental collapse.
The first thing which must be understood is that government is merely made up of people. People who we have granted collective power to. We now use them as simplistic delegates to solve our political issues by using their organization of merely other humans who have power. No matter how many laws, or how many people consent, there is no way to ensure that a human in politics could ever avoid the need for public appeal overcoming their stances. I mean after all, if one politician is saying they need to do nothing and wait, or if anything do less; then the opponent saying there is a problem that they need to fix will naturally be the one favored.
It’s in our nature to want immediate gratification for fixes of society. This simple error continuously sets precedents of needing more government in different areas. Meanwhile, the people saying they will do those have lined their pockets more and more with the money of those benefitting. For the majority of citizens, it is hard to realize that the partisan bickering is merely arguing over who has control of the nation’s extorted money, and the top donors are those who directly benefit.
This continuously happens again and again. Increasing spending and power to one side or the other. There’s really no end because the government can never fail as long as everything it does is legal, and only the individual politicians can be punished. They never have to worry about bad results if their term is going to expire anyway. This enables them to provide so-called “safety” as if they were the only ones who could do it and express little concern otherwise. That major misconception is a widespread fallacy. The government can only provide inefficiently by making certain areas seem more efficient while simultaneously hurting the entire economy by devaluing the currency.
Now comes my second point. There is nothing government can do which a private business could not do better. Especially since they are the ones who monopolize the highest bidders with their laws, then try to tell you more voting can fix the imbalance those monopolies have. We really do not need them for anything.
I know what you’re thinking, and everyone does at first.
“Who will protect muh freedom?”
However, it’s not like society would not be protected. On the contrary, a secession into statelessness would thrive based on the interest of those who abuse government’s monopoly on force now.
When the government is no longer around to force payment from citizens in order to benefit oligarchical constituents for defense contracts and monopolizing the society’s defenses, then the ones most concerned with keeping the society safe wouldn’t be looking out for the individuals, but rather the property they are liable to pay for. The insurance companies.
That on top of millions of wealthy investors from all over the globe would be investing heavily to manufacture in a society with no taxes, creating seemingly unlimited job growth. All of those investors would also be investing to maintain the security of their investment alongside the insurers. With all this production occurring and no minimum wages, it would be harder to be unemployed than it would be employed. As more investors make their business models and buy land, the more employees will be needed by them.
Regulations which they would otherwise need to adjust for themselves to meet consumer demand would no longer be mandated on a national level and causing the employment, wages, and prices to suffer for the new price floor and unnatural production line shift. It would no longer be a select few businesses who would have otherwise failed, but get subsidized by tax dollars. No more allowing them to become monopolized into the 1% due to continuous profit with no risk of failure. Enabling them to produce crap quality, crap prices, crap work environments, and crap wages with no repercussions.
On the contrary, they would have to compete for the only available labor in that area to work at their investments. No more shopping for jobs. Jobs would come shopping for you!
Since there’s all this production, no taxes, and no unnecessary regulation then the cost of living itself comes down substantially. Not only does this allow a charity to cover far more people who need it, but also to do it far more efficiently. Also since those businesses are no longer able to abuse law for their advantages, they have to use ‘less evil’ routes such as appealing to the public outcry of charity to compete. I myself would rather buy from the guy donating to what I liked. On top of that, right now we already see in the organics industry how third-party certifications are thriving against the “USDA Certified Organic” because the qualifications aren’t arbitrarily mandated laws, they are merely a standard to be met. There is no good reason to let a single entity have a monopoly on safety certification, that is an area that needs competitive innovation! We should have video dissections of all our products online by now!
Once you consider the newly lowered costs of all items in the economy along with the jobs, it would clearly enable poverty to decline in levels we have ever seen. Furthermore, there would be no regulatory price floors on the size of land purchases, along with the type of building you could construct either. Not only does rent become immensely cheaper, but so does owning property, to begin with. No more stopping people from living in little shacks if they wanted to.
Roads? Schools? Hospitals?
Basically imagine the city halls turning into competing for delegation and insurance firms for firefighters, security [police], road payment, arbitration courts, insurance, electricity, water, sewage, garbage men, charities of things like land preservation by collective purchase, etc, etc….
Except you don’t have to pay for what you don’t want to.
Your government would be COMPETING for your money, not taking it from you with force.
Plus it would all be an incredibly cheaper without the bureaucracy creating price floors on every one of those services! Crazy pipedream? That’s what the redcoats said about the revolutionaries! Threatening that their livelihoods would be in great peril if not for the kingdom’s protection. Yet when they finally tried to rebel, the kingdom turned out to be the threat they spoke of!
That is why they ensured we would have the right to peacefully secede from a tyrannical government at any time.
All we have to do is get the majority to realize that after all is said and done….. We really don’t need government for anything, and we are better off without them. The only reason they enacted the US federal government was because of fear. The fear that without being able to use force to do things like pay for emergencies, that they would be overcome again by the British or another battle.
Many don’t know that we were closer to voluntary anarchism prior to the US Constitution with no issues under the Articles of Confederation, and ease of secession. However back then they didn’t have the technology, as civilized of a society, high standards of living, and concept of morality we do today against slavery. They didn’t have means to create big insurance agencies, they had no other way to imagine payment of their protection and laws enforcement rather than forcing it out of the citizens.
But we have that now….. We can do it.
This isn’t some overnight basement dweller’s fantasy…. This is a long thought out and thoroughly detailed Austrian economic-based society. The structure of which is continuously being outlined with more detail by an infinitely growing amount of scholars and professors who have dedicated countless hours of work to promoting this intellectual revolution. Not only do they have the most rational understanding on what the concept of “freedom” is, but they have now been able to create a global movement thanks to modern technology.
Nearly all have studied more economic history than all of congress, and who understand the concept of “freedom” with far more rationality.
It’s time for another revolution into a more prosperous society yet again.
This is the future. This is Austrian economics.
This….. is Anarcho-Capitalism.
Check out the Mises Institute to learn more at mises.org. It is entirely free online and dedicated to planting the liberty seed. Everything you could think of has been covered explaining how it would be done, and how much better it would work.They have a vast library of over 300 books, and counting, relating to Voluntarism and Anarcho-Capitalism. Along with dozens of hours of video discussions and audio. There’s also a course available to help guide you through it all for $20 to support their cause plus some quick tutorials on Austrian economics, including a “boot camp,” available through either their website or going to the Youtube channel “misesmedia.” Spread the word, and go plant some seeds!
The Libertarian Party is not a safe space. Just in case you don’t understand that, the Libertarian party is not a fucking safe space. For far too long, the Libertarian Party has been relatively stagnant. In 30 years of being fringe conservatives and impotent anarchists, they have little to show for their existence. Their only path to success was through the Republican Party, as the closest reality we could ever achieve is to look conservative enough to do a few conservative things. Now, with the Libertarian Party on the brink of revolution or destitution, is not the time to play the same old Republican games.
This is not to discredit the libertarian minded Republicans that have been able to help grow our party, and spread our ideals. From Ron Paul to Justin Amash, the liberty movement itself is far from useless in the Republican Party. In fact, I would go as far as to say that: If you are adamant about holding office and effecting real change, no matter how minimal, the Republican Party is the most viable and pragmatic.
However, this has achieved NOTHING for the Libertarian Party, itself! The numbers have remained consistently abysmal, at best for over, for over 40 years. It wasn’t until the election of 2016, with that special combination of two horrible major party candidates, and the Johnson/Weld ability to gain media coverage. Gary was chosen as a pragmatic, former Republican governor to represent the party. Seemingly, this fit into the Republican with a bong, Randist, stereotype of Libertarians.
Something went terribly off the conservative tracks, though. Gary started pandering to the left, trying to pick up Sanders voters. Suddenly, pragmatism shifted left, and the former pragmatists couldn’t stop crying about principles. Gary is advocating for Universal Basic Income and Carbon Tax. While his running mate, William Weld, is explaining how to DIY an automatic weapon, and openly admitted that his goal is to help Clinton win. That was not the pragmatism they were hoping for, or accustomed to.
The result, an exponential boom of interest, activists, and even anarchists. Only one thing is crystal clear from 2016, people want radical change. Gary may have been a moderate libertarian in a lot of eyes, some maybe don’t consider him one at all, but what he did changed the game for the Libertarian Party. It brought exposure to those more radical opponents of his in the Party. People like Larry Sharpe, John McAfee, and Austin Peterson, articulate people within the party, are reaping the benefits of Gary’s shedding of the conservative skin.
So, this is a warning. If you are interested in joining the Libertarian party, beware. They have strippers, Satanists, and anarchists. I feel like the damage has already been done, and it’s too late to stop it. The young radicals have already infiltrated the LP Facebook page, posting nipples and evil. They have members that openly do drugs, and advocate for prostitution and various other kinks. If you try to restrict their ideal of liberty, you may get called words like statist, pleb, or fascist.
I repeat, the Libertarian Party is not a safe space for boring, emotional people. If you are routinely triggered. If you suffer from butthurt syndrome when someone peacefully doesn’t live their life like you. If your feelings, and perception of public image, are easily shaken by young punks and dope smokers. Please, find a safe space somewhere else.
When I was a young lad(many, many moons ago), I discovered the Sex Pistols for the first time. I didn’t bother to learn about the history of the band, and it was years before I watched The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle…all I did was turn on that first record and the absolute rawness, the complete unbridled individuality that screamed out of my speakers, spoke to me on a deep level. Sure, you’re probably wondering how a band that barely knew how to play their instruments(I always joked that Steve Jones and Paul Cook were the best two man band in punk rock history) could be so influential. It wasn’t the music(as many three-chord punk bands who tried and failed to emulate them found out), it was the dangerous message: I do what I want, you don’t own me. It was a message that any rebellious kid could identify with because I mean who wants to listen to their parents or teachers? Most were content to leave it there, and after they hung up their Chuck Taylors and took out their piercings, they joined the rat race and submitted to one authority after another: their professors in college, their boss at their job, their friends who had their own professors and jobs. Punk rock was anarchy-lite, quickly abandoned for the realism of responsibilities and commitments. Death and taxes. But always, underneath that basic “you don’t own me mom” sneer of punk rock was the idea: If my parents don’t own me….does anyone? It’s that dangerous message, the fish-hook buried in the candy bar, that kicked off a world of discovery for me. Listening to the Sex Pistols scream about anarchy in the UK was the catalyst for a life spent questioning all authority, seeking the ultimate freedom of the individual. But these days, the freedom of the individual seems swallowed up in big government nanny-state rhetoric…I’m more likely to see a Bernie sticker on a punk rocker’s guitar than an anarchy symbol. How the hell did we get here?
There’s always been a left-wing lean to punk rock…the working class’ struggles were immortalized in the music of the Clash, songs like “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” by the Dead Kennedys, and lyrics like these by The Ex: “The bourgeoisie was not needed and we proved it / No church, no masters, no guardians / Property collectivized, we took over the estates / No necessity for money to exist, everyone would work / And exchange with other collectives – no need for the state.” There were precious few conservative punk rockers…the Ramones’ own Johnny Ramone was a life-long voting Republican(to the chagrin of his left-leaning bandmates), and the band FEAR has taken some heat by the punk community for being conservative in their politics. But that’s about it…and it makes sense if you think about it. Punk rock in its very origins was reactionary, a nihilistic scream against the materialism and plastic commercialism of the late 1970s. They hated the status quo, and conservatism most assuredly WAS the status quo. Google “anti-Reagan punk” and you’ll have quite the playlist. Punk rock from its very beginnings was anti-authoritarian, populist, and socially liberal above all. The freaks and outcasts from modern conservative society were welcome, in fact being too “normal” meant you were looked at with distrust.
The reactionary attitude extended to capitalism as well…it was seen as exploitative, anyone seeking a record deal with a major label was a “sell-out” and bands promoted themselves through fanzines and collective efforts. The more DIY you were, the more “punk rock” you were. Later in the 90s when Nirvana was selling out arenas and record stores Kurt Cobain bemoaned the state of the record industry as co-opting what was essentially a grass-roots movement and selling it as a product. He was absolutely right. The music industry had long been controlled by the “big four” companies: Universal Music Group, Sony, Warner, and EMI. Their monopoly privileges and cooperation with radio monopolies(EMMIS, Radio One, and Clear Channel own most of the radio stations in the US)meant that all roads to super-stardom went through them, and with that came contracts ensuring that the companies owned a majority share in any profits the artist might earn. This state-enforced capital funnel meant that the artists were essentially serfs to their record labels.
Keep in mind this was before the advent of the internet and other technologies which allowed musicians to more directly interact with their fans and circumvent the major labels, so many punk rock acts who were looking to avoid “selling out” started their own labels. The music industry was seen as a vampire sucking the life out of productive musicians and something to be avoided as much as possible. Capitalism was the enemy, they declared…while participating in it. Remember how at its core punk rock was reactionary and anti-authority? The main authority later punk musicians had to rebel against was the music industry itself, a monolithic authority propped up by monopoly privileges and an almost inescapable permeation of every facet of popular culture. This leviathan was the target of many later punk bands like NOFX, Rancid, and Bad Religion, who started their own record labels and movements as a reaction to the exodus in the mid-80s and 90s of many punk bands to the major labels. Bands like the Offspring and Green Day were derided as sell outs and turncoats in the punk underground.
Politically, punk rock focused most of its efforts on this monopoly throughout the 90s. Clinton was in the White House by this point and even though there was still some anti-statist sentiment in most punk music, the Democrats were seen as somewhat “safe” compared to the GOP. Keep in mind punk rock rose to prominence in the 1980s as a reactionary political movement against Reagan conservatism and people who came of age during this time listening to bands like Reagan Youth and the Dead Kennedys found themselves more and more turned to leftist politics. Clinton promised change to the left-wing base, and like most who lived through the Obama years can attest, the left wing is pretty silent when one of their boys is in the White House. Kids who were in their adolescence during the Reagan years were voters now and registered Democrats. The Clinton “surplus” and the relative boom of the dot.com years only encouraged them more and more that the Democrats were the party of the future. Social issues became more important, and the ideas of individual freedom and anarchy gave way to pragmatism and “voting for the lesser evil”. These middle-aged punks got married, had kids, and blended into the cycle of responsibility and paying taxes.
Then the 2000 election happened, and the uproar by the left was matched only by the Trump win in recent days. 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq only fueled the fire. All of a sudden high school kids were getting political and getting into punk music again. Old punkers NOFX trotted out anti-Bush albums and Fat Mike, their frontman, even started punkvoter.com…a website with the stated goal of removing Bush by mobilizing the young voting base to vote Democrat. Holy hell! It was a wild decade, with Rock Against Bush and other protest efforts lining the coffers of Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph with plenty of new fans’ money. This wasn’t the grass-roots anti-authoritarian reactionary movement of the 1970s…this was corporate rock opportunism at its finest. Honed to perfection from decades of working within the music industry, all of a sudden being anti-authoritarian meant voting Democrat! It was hilariously absurd if one hadn’t seen the writing on the wall from punk’s very beginnings. It was always simply a reactionary movement, never an anarchist one. Anarchism in punk was basically nihilism…which is completely unsustainable. One eventually finds values. The punks of the 80s and 90s found value in socially liberal policies and anti-capitalist sentiment. Nevermind that the capitalism they experienced was the result of government intervention in the market, bestowing privileges and monopolies to a few corporations which mined their movement for profit. Their penchant for socially liberal government policies ensured that punks that did vote would generally vote Democrat. Their built up hatred for the capitalist structure(while ironically participating in it wholeheartedly) ensured that they would be receptive to socialist ideas. The rise of Bernie Sanders and the subsequent reaction to the Trump win was, therefore, unsurprising, if not predictable.