Van Jones, Meet Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu’s most famous advice in The Art of War is to know your enemy. Van Jones, in a recent speech excoriating libertarians, proved that he does not.

For one, he believes libertarians are “anti-immigrant, bigots.” He must be unaware that libertarians favor open immigration. This doesn’t bode well for his argument. The Huffington Post‘s Radley Balko tweeted, “Dear Van Jones: I’m a libertarian. I’m for open immigration. You support Obama. Last year, he set the all-time US record for deportations.”

If Jones is pro-immigration, he’ll find a lot to like about the work that libertarian groups like CEI and Cato have been putting out for years (see here, here, and here). And he’ll also be more critical of both parties for their stances on the issue.

He must also not know that you can’t be a libertarian and a bigot at the same time. It’s a logical impossibility. Libertarians are individualists. Bigotry is a crude form of collectivism. Bigots also tend not to favor liberalizing immigration.

Jones also argued that libertarians are homophobic. He must not know that libertarians are strong supporters of gay rights, including gay marriage (see here, here, and here, for starters). People who actually are bigoted against gays, such as Rick Santorum, are in fact openly critical of libertarianism.

Van Jones was never on my radar even when he was regularly in the news; he made it clear early on that he is not a serious thinker. This post marks the first time his name has appeared in this blog. And it will probably be the last. But his errors demand correction, not least because they are so common.

Think about it for a minute. Can you really imagine radical anti-government ideologues arguing for more government control over immigration and marriage? Me neither. This is pretty basic stuff. And he got it dead wrong.

The reason is that Jones has the bad cognitive habit of taking everything he disagrees with and simply giving it the name “libertarian” (or progressive, or conservative; all sides fall for the same fallacy). If Jones wants to argue against libertarianism, he would do much better to argue against positions that libertarians actually take.

The most effective thinkers and activists are the ones who at least try to pass the ideological Turing test. That’s really just a fancy way of saying, as Sun Tzu does, to know your enemy. That Jones has clearly taken no such trouble speaks volumes.


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