Libertarianism and Politics
The Myths of New America are an entire fog of ideas about how the world works, especially the political world. Proponents of the free market economy and liberty - known today as Libertarians - suffer a barrage of attacks for their stances. Liberals and Conservatives are the power of American politics today. To be a part of today's Intelligentsia, all you need to do is be a leader of ideas - thus many Liberals and Conservative leaders are today's Intelligentsia.
Are you happy with that, and satisfied by today's Intelligentsia, with it's government growth and arbitrary powers of legislation? We here at the 'NAM would like to present a short summary of some things to think about, for the Intelligentsia of the future. We may even touch on a part of this rich complex of mythology behind politics today, the New American Myth, in the process.
Debunking the Myth - today's ideas behind Libertarianism and modern Politics:
"Liberals want personal liberty more than any other group. What use are Libertarians to freedom when there are Democrats?"
Liberals may want personal liberty but when it comes to dollars and cents, those seem to be fair game. The only problem is that to keep the markets restricted you violate many people's rights, including those working in their respective trades. Other nations following the Democrat economic practices falled to Socialism and squandered the wealth and achievement of others. Most of all, the economic stranglehold gave rise to Authoritarian police-states... and in these situations, no Democracy could save the masses from having all their personal liberties stripped away from them.
So much for the idea of restricting the economy going hand in hand with preservation of personal rights.
"Conservatives believe in the free market, something they advocate better than Libertarians or any other party."
The Republican Party doesn't lean towards the Democrat's economic model, but when it's time to render absolute moral judgments and fixing domestic ills, you won't find a good Republican without his pen and paper to write the legislation to solve the problem. To implement this kind of legislation to "fix" the individual, we must have restricted trade and increased taxes. So, it seems that when personal liberties are stifled, so are economic ones.
Want an open contradiction between Republicans and free markets? What about the current administration of George W. Bush, who, with a Republican dominated Congress, has an annual budget of 2 trillion dollars - the highest ever to be taxed away from private industry? Heavy taxes and huge governments are not compatible with preserving free markets. Libertarians know and recognize this.
"The Left-Right spectrum is the best way to think about politics today."
The left/right wing idiom doesn't accurately express politics today. Why? Because it does not address the purpose of government - it simply addresses it's tendencies towards personal or economic liberties. Adding an extra axis to the chart, we'll call it "up" and "down", we find that politics also falls under Libertarianism/Socialism-Authoritarianism. Libertarians believe that government should be limited and it's purpose is to secure both economic and personal liberties. Socialists and Authoritarians believe government's purpose is to maximize control over your personal and economic liberties for some greater end.
This "up" and "down" spectrum could be considered perhaps a more important measure of someone's real political allegiances, since it addresses something more core to politics - principle.
"Libertarianism has no basis in American politics."
Libertarianism is in fact an extension of old-era "liberalism". Unlike modern Liberals, who have been affected largely by the ideas of Socialism and Communism since the late 1800's, Libertarians adopt the same principles of social liberty founded by Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Constitution, wrote the Declaration of Independence, and was our 3rd President of the United States. They also follow free market economics from the school of thought started by Adam Smith, intellectual founder of Capitalism. Jefferson's party, the Democratic-Republican Party, practiced a more othodox version of Libertarian governing, with few taxes, few social programs, and an emphasis on protecting the rights of United States citizens to free trade and non-violent society.
Today's parties, while adopting the two namesakes of Jefferson's party - Democrats and Republicans seem to practice none of these principles. Instead, Jefferson's rival, Alexander Hamilton and his Federalist Party seems to have a larger influence on politics of today. Hamilton's ideas were to emulate the British, create mixed economies, legislate arbitrarily... and to have a government with few to no limits.
Which description best summarizes today's politics:
Limited government, strict rights, and no undue taxes...
... rapid and unmitigated government growth, trade restriction, arbitrary legislation and mixed market economic practices?
Libertarian's role in today's politics is to be something of the old age's Democratic-Republicans while the actual Democrats and Republicans seem to argue over which form of Federalism works best.
"The Green Party is the nation's largest third party, not the Libertarian Party."
Ralph Nader (the Green candidate for president) did get more votes than Harry Browne (the LP candidate for president) in the 2000 elections. However, the LP...
1) Has more registered members
2) Runs more candidates
3) Gets a higher frequency of candidates elected
... than any other 3rd party, giving it a right to the claim of being the nation's third largest party.
"Aren't Libertarians Liberal? Civil Libertarians?"
"Civil Libertarian" is a term given to ACLU-supporting Left-Wing Liberals. Supporters of "Civil Liberties". However, when it comes to what has been for over 30 years "Libertarian"... the ACLU does not match up, and neither do "Civil Libertarians". Don't believe me? Simply compare the Libertarian Party and the ACLU...
Gun rights: The ACLU strongly opposes private gun ownership. The LP insists on nothing but fully private gun ownership and free gun trade.
Death Penalty: Nowhere does the LP condemn the death penalty, in fact, it encourages a "get tough" attitude against violent crime where the death penalty could come in handy. The ACLU however thinks it's "against citizen's rights"... no matter how heinous the crime, be it mass murder or high treason.
Disabilities Act: The ACLU is the darling of those who are disabled - and will sue anyone who doesn't make enough handicapped parking spaces, wheelchair ramps or handicapped seating. While the LP cares a lot about the disabled, it does not believe it's right for government to legislate special provisions in their favor. Instead, it insists, citizens themselves have the power to easily demand fair treatment for those who are disabled. To deny this is to say that those who are disabled don't have an influence in our modern society... and the ACLU, unlike the LP, says this.
HIV/AIDS: The ACLU's response to "discrimination" against those afflicted with this deadly ailment is to sue. The LP's reaction is compassion, not frivolous lawsuits.
Gay/Lesbian Rights: The LP never recognizes the "special" rights of others. The ACLU, however, thinks that it's the right of every homosexual person to sue the pants off anyone who disagrees with their lifestyle. The LP would never stand for this dishonorable activity.
Visits to the LP's official website and the ACLU's official website will easily illustrate the differences. While some issues, like the Drug War and -select- free speech issues will show them on common ground, that ground is definitely partitioned by a large fence of common differences.
"Isn't this anarchy?"
Simply put... no.
Libertarians believe in government, much like the framers of the Constitution did. And like those founding fathers, Libertarians believe that the government should not be allowed to extend beyond the powers delegated to it. A Libertarian government has many functions, primarily, a court system to prevent fraud, a diplomatic and military body to prevent (or fight) wars, it would also have a legislative body to help create laws that protect citizen's rights. Police would still exist and so would jails (and so would criminals).
Written law, an organized court system, police and jails... these things aren't what you think of when you think of anarchy. In fact, it's the dead opposite. Libertarianism is the same kind of government we have now, just a little smaller with politicians that are far more accountable for abuses of power.
"Libertarians just want to legalize drugs. They're nuts."
It's true that the LP advocates the end to the drug war. Why?
By making drug trade illegal, a violent black market has formed in America today. The result is much like the 1920's when we made alcohol illegal - gangs fight over regional territories, using brutal street violence, to secure monopolies over drug trade. Now what we have are drugs developing in unsafe environments, creating impure and often poisoned narcotics which are sold not in stores - that is illegal - it's sold on the streets, behind schools, where your children are. Organized crime, which is the only supplier available, profits greatly and creates organizations capable of pulling off a dizzying array of violence against our citizens - and they can't be jailed, because the jails are full of non-violent citizens imprisoned on minor drug offenses. Drug offenders, stuck in their addiction (one usually acquired in their teen years) cannot seek help legally and cannot demand a safer supply method - instead, they are extorted for their addiction and made into victims for the black market profiteers.
To curtail this developing phenomenon, the LP suggests a deceptively simple answer: legalize drugs. Doing so has been shown, in other nations, to make the drugs purer, safer, and less popular amongst teens and children (use migrates in demographics from teens to adults, since the stock is no longer sold on school grounds, but in pharmacies and stores). The element of extortion is removed by competitive trade. People can seek help without fearing arrest. It's interesting to note that in the early 1900's before the drug war, recreational drug users were primarily the rich and upper-middle class citizens... and even in their worst case scenarios, the addictions did not seem to meddle much with their financial status or lifestyle (many held businesses and raised families in spite of a crippling addiction).
The biggest effect would be the disapperance of continually developing super-dangerous narcotics which would only be sold well in an underground profiteering scheme by black market gangs. Also "hard" drugs would virtually disappear, since their alternatives are usually far safer for users. Organized crime would have it's legs cut out from under it, as almost all violently criminal organizations rely on drug trade to get by.
With that question answered... is this the only cause the LP supports? Are Libertarians just drug-liberating hippies?
No. It's a mere tip of the iceberg. Gun rights, school choice, healthier markets, accountable politicians, downsizing an already obese government... these issues amongst a myriad of others usually take precidence over the anti-Drug War cause. After all, most Libertarians, like most citizens in general, consider drug use negative to society, irrespective of differences of opinion that these same Libertarians might have with others about it's legality.
Libertarians may be nuts... but remember, an oak tree is simply a nut who stood his ground.
"The Libertarian Party never gets votes and is still far smaller than major parties like the Democrats and Republicans. How can I take it seriously?"
Political corruption is a problem for most nations. Under the guise of solving this problem, campaign finance reform is created. This legislation often does not serve it's real purpose - to limit political fraud - but instead, constricts third parties and political competition by putting contribution caps on political donations, applying ballot restrictions, and creating special benefits for existing politicians like campaign boosts, debate donations, and the hosting of huge personal expenses.
Libertarians and us at the 'NAM recommend eliminating special privileges for politicians, the taxpayers are not here to pay so they can have shut-out ballots and expense-free elections, or huge public debate forums. It is not the taxpayer's responsibility to pay for a politician's personal venues, clothing, living conditions, or anything besides their work environment and their standard wage.
Simply put, governments should not fund political campaigns. This prevents independent citizens from running on new platforms, and forces citizens to support political ideologies they may not endorse. Do you like paying for a political platform that contradicts your values? No one would. This practice must end.
Lastly, all candidates eligible for elective office should be included on ballots. There should not be absurd petition and financial requirements to be on the ballot, and existing dominant parties should not get special ballot access. The write-in ballot should be enabled as well - so citizens may write-in an eligible candidate in case none of the ballot officials represent their views. "No taxation without representation" can only be the rule of a society which fairly allows anyone who might best represent the people their fair shot at candidacy.
It's true that the Libertarian Party is not taken seriously. But our government doesn't take any third party seriously with it's shut-out bicratic party system. This needs to end before any serious debate can begin.
"Isn't this just the same ideas spouted by Bill Maher?"
The host of Politically Incorrect is incorrect about one thing - he's not "politically Libertarian". But don't take it from me. Take it from the official Libertarian Party website which denounces Maher as being inconsistent with the party platform.
"Libertarians can't change anything."
Libertarians can and do change things all the time. The Libertarian Party goes into court case after court case attempting to shoot down legislation. Hundreds of local and state officials all across the U.S. proclaim Libertarian affiliations as the basis for their judgment. In 2000, the LP set a record in U.S. House history, by having their candidates gather over 1.66 million votes cumulatively - a new record for a third party. In 1998 and 2000 in several instances for Senate and President the Libertarian Party got more votes than the loss margins. This means the LP is a party big enough to control the "swing" vote. Just this year they successfully challenged in a suit against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, and at all times the LP actively attempts to change "the way it is". The CATO Institute, a success-laden Washington think-tank, is almost expressly Libertarian in it's aims... and highly respected and publicized by international media.
The Libertarian Party is constantly growing, and like it or not, Libertarians bringing these old ideas back into a new light definitely does "change" a lot of how people really think about government. It's simply a matter of time and continued effort before the common Intelligentsia you see before you with the two party system begins being replaced by the Intelligentsia who recognize that free markets and liberty aren't contradictions - in fact, they both are hand-in-hand.
"Libertarianism solves nothing."
Perhaps the biggest myth is the idea that Conservatives or Liberals are the only solution-makers around. Libertarianism is a robust form of government that could preserve the current American lifestyle and improve on it by offering more freedom without losing that vital aspect of having real government to back those liberties. Libertarianism was the solution back in the colonial era when the British began passing taxes on tea and stamps. How many Tea and Stamp Acts have been passed by today's Congress, and why is it okay now any more than it was then? Bodies like the CATO Institute constantly provide statistics to prove that the free market DOES solve things... virtually every major problem there is. Domestic or fiscal.
Modern politics doesn't consider the idea that Libertarian solutions work. Yet history, fact and simple ethics should provide that it's a decent thing to consider.
... Libertarianism and Modern Politics? Maybe it's all just another part of the New American Myth we live in everyday.