Sunday, November 20, 2016

In search of a new libertarianism

A few weeks before the election I wrote a post on Gary Johnson, Libertarian (capital L) candidate for president.  In it I expressed my dismay at the self destructive behavior of the Libertarian party.  Their insistence on an open borders movement that would flood our country with non-libertarian voters; their focus on drug legalization at the expense of all the other issues that need to be talked about; and their disdain in this cycle for freedom as evinced by Johnson's support for the "Bake the Cake" movement.

To add to all this, Johnson's running mate, Bill Weld, is a strong proponent of restrictions on the right to own firearms, and just before the election was on MSNBC suggesting that libertarian voters in North Carolina should vote for Hillary Clinton.

How on earth does a party allegedly devoted to freedom and individual liberty expect to be taken seriously if they espouse government control over significant aspects of our lives; and on top of that endorse the candidate from another party who is the very face, both party and candidate, of big government?  Add to this the fact that the four states in which Johnson did best were states that Clinton won, and one has to wonder whether the Libertarian party has become a spoiler for the Democratic machine, sucking off just enough of the small government conservatives who can't bring themselves to vote for one of the two big parties anymore to make the election close.  I know that there are arguments that the Libertarian party pulls more Democrats, but I don't buy it.  For one, the big L arguments (drug legalization and open borders) have become Democratic staples.

Add to that the general wackiness that the Party exudes (true story, libertarian candidate in Washington was wearing his Star Trek uniform at a gun show while he campaigned for votes) and it is clear that the Libertarian party is neither serious nor relevant.

So what is a libertarian (small l) to do?  Years of pushing for libertarian policies have led to the election of Donald Trump, definitely not a libertarian.  Years of pushing for the Libertarian party to promote actual libertarian ideas other than smoke lots of pot have led to the ascendency of Johnson and Weld to the top of the party.  The problem would seem to be that libertarian thinkers have done a poor job of educating the American people about libertarian ideas, including those voters inclined towards the L Party.  A significant portion of the electorate thinks that socialism is a workable political philosophy; that we had a "free market" in health care and that it failed us; and that unfettered capitalism led to the crash in 2007 and the subsequent eight year recession.  Never mind Cuba, the Soviet Union, and Venezuela; never mind massive government regulation of every aspect of American health care for the past sixty years; and never mind far reaching government regulation in banking and housing that caused the bubble that collapsed in 2007.  The problem, in each of these cases, was government intervention distorting the free exchange of ideas and goods.  These arguments can go all the way back to the Great Depression and government manipulation of the gold standard and the currency markets.

We need to do a better job in educating the people, but we are opposed by the mainstream media, the education system, and a perception that libertarians are the kind of people who wear Star Trek uniforms to campaign for public office.  Big hurdles to overcome.

We also have to convince people that there is no perfect solution.  Proponents of big government often claim that their solution will fix some problem.  It then causes other problems (generally unexpectedly by the proponents of the fix), all of which have to be fixed and all of which use taxpayer (aka your) money.  What we can't do, as libertarians, is claim that our solution will fix all the problems.  They won't.  Nothing will.  All the problems can't be fixed because this is the real world.  All we can do is minimize the problems that we have while creating the maximum amount of freedom and wealth.  Our proposals will do that.  Theirs won't.  That is the difference.

So as we move forward, educate, educate, and then educate some more.  Talk to your friends, talk to your acquaintances, talk to strangers who are standing on street corners with signs.  Maybe they want to talk.  Talk to them, however, as equals, not as children, and let them know that it sucks that the world is hard, but here's what we think you can do to make it better.  And it doesn't involve taking someone else's money at the point of a gun.

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