Americans should heed Barbara Streisand’s 2020 warning. The singer’s plea that “we can’t go on like this. It’s too dangerous,” doesn’t overstate the urgency needed to overcome the reckless politics steering our country to ruin.
Last week, Streisand wrote a column for Vanity Fair calling on Americans to “bring back dignity and grace” by voting out President Donald Trump in November.
Yawn, right? Not so fast.
Revealed in her reasoning, as well as who she is to make such an argument, is a sign that better prospects for liberty may be closer than we think.
Of course, libertarians understand that America’s problems didn’t begin with Trump. It’s easy to laugh off Streisand’s gripes when she admits she wakes up every morning “holding my breath while I turn on my phone to see the latest news.”
Perhaps one morning she’ll exhale normally and ask how we got here so that we don’t fall into repeating the same mistakes.
It is true, however, that “we can’t go on like this,” as Streisand says, “It’s too dangerous.”
As the state becomes more centralized, social cohesion is declining. Institutions and traditional centers of community life are failing to give younger Americans meaning, turning more of them toward the activist street mobs clashing in the streets for a sense of purpose.
To her credit, Streisand nobly pushes for change at home as opposed to moving to Canada or Europe as other elite voices in her industry do. But what if change in this country could occur voluntarily and organically, as opposed to a bitter national fight over an all-powerful president?
Decentralization, by means of nullification and secession, is the grand policy prescription for a more cohesive, peaceful, and prosperous America. To achieve this libertarian goal, however, political organizing won’t be enough.
For too long, libertarians have made the same mistake as Streisand: accepting the premise that the majority can be swayed toward restoring dignity and grace to the political order.
In her 1910 essay “Minorities versus Majorities,” anarchist Emma Goldman condemned mass democracy, observing that “the multitude, the mass spirit” can be summarized as “quantity” and thus “destroying quality.”
“Today, as then, public opinion is the omnipresent tyrant; today, as then, the majority represents a mass of cowards, willing to accept him who mirrors its own soul and mind poverty,” she said.
Streisand naturally serves the “mass spirit” as a pop singer and actress, but her wealth also attaches her to the intellectual elite, or establishment, which is an arm of the state. This is how she fancies herself a moralizing political commentator.
In 2016, Trump disrupted the intellectual established order, shocking the media, academia, and political kingmakers. His reelection, however, will be insufficient to continue this rupture.
“The rule of public intellectuals can only be broken by anti-intellectual intellectuals,” economist and philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe said in his essay “Natural Elites, Intellectuals, and the State.”
The counter-intellectuals, Hoppe insists, must be of sound moral character, even above their intellectual pursuits. Some counter-intellectuals may compromise or sell out on their way to prominence, never returning to principled form even when they’d supposedly hold more influence.
Remember economists Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises as examples of counter-intellectuals who never diluted their position in exchange for prestige, which they could have quite easily done.
Streisand’s article proves that unease with the status quo is reaching a critical mass. It is the job of the libertarian to not only stave off further statist peril but also to allow those who insist on the opposite view to go their own way.
Let the Streisands try their way, but never yield in the pursuit of a free society, even if it means leaving part of declining America behind.