One of the most difficult – and essential – challenges faced by libertarians is the constant need to point out "the gun in the room." In political debates, it can be very hard to cut through the endless windy abstractions that are used to cover up the basic fact that the government uses guns to force people to do what they do not want to do, or prevent them from doing what they do want to do. Listening to non-libertarians, I often wish I had a "euphemism umbrella" to ward off the continual oily drizzle of words and phrases designed to obscure the simple reality of state violence. We hear nonstop nonsense about the "social good," the "redistribution of income," the "education of children" and so on – endless attempts to bury the naked barrel of the state in a mountain of syrupy metaphors.Now, the "we" talk puts me off a little; I'm not a libertarian, and the only category title that I claim at this point is "Christian." But I do like the linguistic approach that Mr. Molyneux takes here -- reminiscent of my hero George Orwell in "Politics and the English Language". It is shamefully necessary to choose or invent alternative terms for robbery and murder, if we insist on robbing and murdering, and simultaneously pretending that we aspire to being good people.
It is a wearying but essential task to keep reminding people that the state is nothing but an agency of violence. When someone talks about "the welfare state helping the poor," we must point out the gun in the room. When someone opposes the decriminalization of marijuana, we must point out the gun in the room. When someone supports the reduction of taxes, we must point out the gun in the room – even if one bullet has been taken out.
So much political language is designed to obscure the simple reality of state violence that libertarianism sometimes has to sound like a broken record. We must, however, continue to peel back the euphemisms to reveal the socially-sanctioned brutality at the root of some of our most embedded social institutions.
Mr. Molyneux might want to avoid saying "we" while talking about libertarians. Libertarian is like conservative in that both have lost any real, concrete meaning, owing to their adoption -- or, rather, their co-option -- by the unprincipled.