Something to Learn from the Trump Presidency
By Pierre Lemieux
The president of the United States tweeted a video of an alleged rioter (who, in all likelihood, is an American citizen, not a “Mexican rapist”) with the threatening comment:
“Anarchists, we see you!”
Is it for the president to identify suspects? So much for the ideal of the rule of law, it seems.
But my point is different and relates to the benefits of personal knowledge. I have always hoped that a journalist would, during a press conference, ask the president something like “Mr. President, what do you mean exactly by ‘socialism’?” Or, “Mr. President, what do you mean by ‘the extreme left’ and how does it differ from the left?”
Since Mr. Trump’s tweet of yesterday and his other recent references to “anarchists” as another type of scapegoat, my dream has changed. I would now propose questions like the following:
Mr. President, what is an anarchist? What does an anarchist believe?
Mr. President, do you think that Henry David Thoreau, Lysander Spooner, and Murray Rothbard were anarchists?
What about David Friedman?
Do you think that Anthony de Jasay was a conservative anarchist?
Of course, looters have to be stopped and arrested but different sorts of anarchists exist, just as there are different sorts of defenders of the state. Another idea for a question along those lines:
Mr. President, don’t you think that the so-called “anarchist” rioters and looters actually want more state power, just like the “extreme left” you attack?
The following question may be problematic for both Mr. Trump and the libertarians involved:
Mr. President, what do you think of the anarcho-capitalists who, during your 2016 election campaign, created a group called “Libertarians for Trump”?
More seriously, I suggest the Trump presidency has taught something important to those of us who define themselves as libertarians or fellow travelers: knowledge is important, both in the sense of a minimal culture about what has been happening in the world until yesterday and in the sense of an intellectual capacity to learn. To advance liberty, an ignorant disrupter is not sufficient. He is more likely to advance tyranny. If he appears to defend one libertarian cause—say, the Second Amendment—he will more probably bring it into disrepute.