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On FFF’s Liberal Panel at the SFL Conference


Among the many articles generated by FFF’s panel at the Students for Liberty conference, which featured noted liberals (i.e., progressives) Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick, and Jeremy Scahill, was one at Mediaite, which included the following: “ISFLC is an annual gathering of several thousand libertarian students from around the world. Scahill bemoaned how many of his liberal Twitter followers attacked him for appearing at the event, and thanked the crowd for such a warm reception.”

For the life of me, I just don’t understand why progressives (liberals) would take another progressive to task for appearing at a libertarian conference. After all, when it comes to civil liberties, foreign policy, and the drug war, progressives and libertarians are basically on the same page. What’s wrong with bringing people of like minds on a particular issue together to share perspectives with people who are willing to listen, whether they be libertarians, progressives, or even conservatives?

Of course, our invitation to Stone, Kuznick, and Scahill also raised eyebrows among some libertarians. One libertarian on the Internet wondered why we were inviting progressives to speak when there are plenty of libertarians speakers available.

The answer is very simple: When it comes to such issues as civil liberties, the national-security state, militarism, foreign policy, and the drug war, people on the left are oftentimes more competent exponents than many libertarians, especially those libertarians whose longtime focus has been on economic issues. By bringing in progressives to share their insights and perspectives on matters on which they share common ground with libertarians, the audience can oftentimes gain a richer, deeper understanding of why these particular issues are so critically important.

Does the same principle apply to conservatives? Should we also invite them to speak to libertarians? Of course! That’s why we also had conservatives speak at FFF’s 2007-2008 conferences on civil liberties, the Constitution, and foreign policy. Foremost among the conservatives that we have had speaking at FFF’s programs has been Bruce Fein, who served in the Justice Department in the Reagan administration. There are few more eloquent defenders of civil liberties and opponents of militarism and empire than Bruce Fein.

In fact, for the past two years at the Students for Liberty conference we had a panel consisting of Fein, a conservative, and me, a libertarian.

And in what made a fascinating combination, last year, in conjunction with the Young Americans for Liberty, another great libertarian student group, we hosted two College Civil Liberties Tours in the East, Mid-West, and West featuring Fein, the well-known progressive Glenn Greenwald, and me, moderated by YAL representative Jack Hunter, who would best be described as a conservative-libertarian.

Those college tours were great in two ways: One, they attracted a combination of conservative, liberal, and libertarian students, and, two, they exposed all the students to perspectives on civil liberties and foreign policies from three people of different ideological beliefs.

Prior to one of the programs on the college tours, I was approached by an audience member who said, “I can’t wait for the debate to begin.” I responded, “This isn’t a debate.” She said, “What do you mean? You have a liberal, conservative, and libertarian up there. How can it not be a debate?” I explained that when it came to these particular issues, the three of us were on the same page. She could see that by the end of the program.

Needless to say, when it comes to civil liberties, foreign policy, and the drug war, conservatives are an absolute disaster. When the 9/11 attacks occurred, most of them caved and traded our freedom away for the pretense of security, especially since a Republican president was in office.

For seven years, many liberals stood fast in favor of civil liberties and against empire and militarism. And then President Obama was elected. Betraying his liberal base, Obama ended up endorsing everything the Bush administration had been doing in the area of civil liberties and foreign policy. Conservatives, not surprisingly, loved Obama’s embrace of Bush’s policies. But what was fascinating is that most progressives did what conservatives had done under Bush. They caved and began supporting Obama’s ever-growing infringements on civil liberties and his ardent devotion to the national-security state.

But not all liberals. A few courageous and principled ones have remained steadfastly committed to civil liberties and have had the courage to oppose Obama’s embrace of Bush’s policies. Those are the ones whose articles we link to in our FFF Daily (whose subscription is free). Those are the ones who we invite to speak at our events, not on the issues we disagree on (e.g., economics) but rather on the issues we agree on—civil liberties, the national security state, foreign policy, and the drug war.

I myself have spoken at socialist-communist-leftist conferences and I have also spoken at extreme right-wing conservative conferences. What’s wrong with that? My libertarian message doesn’t change. What’s wrong with libertarians, conservatives, and liberals who share the same perspectives on issues speaking at each other’s conferences or publishing articles on issues where the viewpoints are the same?

Answer: There is nothing wrong with that and, in fact, there is everything right with it. It doesn’t entail anyone’s changing or sacrificing his views or principles. It provides an opportunity for people of diverse views to get together and share perspectives with each other. It gets us closer to achieving mutual goals.

It’s not easy for progressives to enter a libertarian lion’s den any more than it’s easy for libertarians to enter liberal or conservative lions’ dens. Our thanks go out to Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick, and Jeremy Scahill, and all our progressive speakers for your willingness and good humor in doing so.

I thought you might be interested in seeing the press that the Oliver Stone-Peter Kuznick-Jeremy Scahill panel generated. The articles about the panel are posted below.

Oliver Stone Among the Libertarians — Yahoo News

Oliver Stone Rails Against Obama and His MSNBC Defenders — Fox News

Oliver Stone Calls Obama “a Weak Man” – Fox News

Oliver Stone: Obama’s “Lack of Spine” is Stunning – Drudge Report

Bill O’Reilly: President Obama Catching Flack on His Left – Fox News

Oliver Stone and Jeremy Scahill Rail Against Obama and His MSNBC Defenders – Mediaite

Oliver Stone: President Obama is “Weak,” “Stunned Us with a Lack of Spine” –EurWeb

Oliver Stone Turns on Obama – Washington Beacon

“Oliver Stone Is a Weak and Spineless Man” – Newsmax

Getting to Know Oliver Stone — National Review

Director Oliver Stone Calls President Obama a “Jellyfish” — Washington Post

Oliver Stone Rips Obama on Civil Liberties — Inquisitr

Oliver Stone Hammers Obama’s “Lack of Spine” on Military Issues: “He’s a Weak Man” —
Raw Story

Oliver Stone Blasts “Weak Obama,” Sycophants at MSNBC — Breitbart News

Leftist Filmmaker Oliver Stone Shreds “Weak” Obama: “The Man Stunned Us With a Lack of Spine” —
BizPac Reviews

Oliver Stone Rails Against “Weak” Obama, MSNBC Defenders — Real Clear Politics

Oliver Stone: Obama Is a Pantywaist! — The National Enquirer

Oliver Stone Blasts Barack Obama – ShowBizSpy

Oliver Stone, Ayn Rand Pop Art, and “Second Wave Libertarianism” – Reason

Oliver Stone Doubles Down on Support for Chavista Regime — Pan Am Post

An Open Letter to Oliver Stone — Pan Am Post




This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.