Why Invite Oliver Stone and Progressives to a Libertarian Conference?

At the PanAm Post, we’ve drawn attention to the presence of Chavista-hardliner Oliver Stone at the recent International Students for Liberty Conference (see here and here). Given the way he defends totalitarian and brutal regimes such as those in Cuba and Venezuela, a natural question is how he got to the event in the first place.

OliverStone, Peter Kuznick, and Jeremy Scahill sign books at the International Students for Liberty Conference. Source: Future of Freedom Foundation.
Oliver Stone, Peter Kuznick, and Jeremy Scahill sign books at the International Students for Liberty Conference. Source: Future of Freedom Foundation.

The short answer is that he is a staunch opponent of US militarism abroad; he fought in the Vietnam War and has followed these destructive endeavors for many years. The Future of Freedom Foundation then invited him to appear alongside other “progressives” or “liberals” on a panel: “Imperial Overreach and the National Security State.” In that regard, he did not disappoint, as he criticized US acts of aggression and highlighted President Obama’s “lack of spine.”

The Future of Freedom Foundation.

On Friday, though, FFF President Jacob Hornberger shared a broader response and reflection that merits attention. “When it comes to civil liberties, foreign policy, and the drug war, progressives and libertarians are basically on the same page,” he noted. “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?”

Regarding why one would choose different forms of collectivists (known as progressives in the United States) over libertarians, Hornberger believes:

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.

Hornberger applies this reasoning to himself, and he has spoken at “socialist-communist-leftist conferences.” The same goes for matters of the US Constitution and paleoconservatives, who have much in common with libertarians but devote more attention to US history and its legal framework.

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

Further, Hornberger notes that he is not interested in partisans — those who defend their guy. Among progressives, “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.”

Whether these arguments overwhelm the perceived FFF endorsement or legitimacy given to Oliver Stone is a matter of judgment. Although I am a fan of FFF and have written many times with them before, in this case such an extreme choice may have gone too far. On the positive side, it generated plenty of attention for the event and Students for Liberty, and EsLibertad leaders were able to get a letter into his hands (see Luis Barrueto’s question from 66:42).

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