Saturday, July 24, 2004


Most readers of this blog will be unsurprised to hear that my political sympathies are thoroughly libertarian. I don't care what homosexuals do among themselves (though I'd rather not think about it), I think pornography is in the eye of the beholder, that prostitution is just another form of private enterprise (very private at that), that there is not much difference between taxation and theft and that government is just about the worst way of doing almost anything. But I nonetheless find a lot of the libertarian literature I see -- particularly stuff emanating from supporters of the Libertarian Party -- to be just as crazy as the stuff coming from the Left. I am not alone in that. A couple of other libertarian bloggers have said much the same recently. See here and here.

What I think has happened is that libertarian ideas have gradually had a pervasive influence throughout politics. Perhaps the most striking instance of that is the recent introduction of a "congestion charge" by London mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone as a (very successful) way of solving inner-London's traffic problems. Livingstone is on the far-Left of the British Labor Party but himself admits that he got the idea from Milton Friedman. And that the Democrat's most adored President saw fit to proclaim (falsely) that the era of big government is over is another telling symptom. And who said this over a quarter of a century ago? "If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism". It was Ronald Reagan -- in an interview in which he also revealed himself to be a student of Bastiat, von Mises, Hayek and Hazlitt. And don't forget that Reagan's degree was in economics so it is not surprising that he should know such writers. So the huge American economic success that Reagan launched was not just some folksy accident but a deliberate application of sophisticated libertarian thinking. To see Reagan as merely folksy is to mistake the sales pitch for the product.

So it seems to me that libertarian ideas are now generally respectable and that the challenge is how to implement them in a context where most people are used to turning to government as a solution to all their problems.

And that is where the Libertarian Party fails. They have not got a blind clue about how to win the mass support that they need in order to achieve anything. Their only proposal for winning the influence that they need is the "Free State" project -- the idea that all libertarians should migrate to some small State such as New Hampshire and thus muster enough votes to take over (and presumably abolish) the State government! Hell will freeze over first.

So all the mentally well-balanced libertarians have by now joined one of the major parties where they might do some good (as Reagan did) -- leaving the fruitcakes in the LP.

And there is certainly nothing hypocritical about joining the GOP. Most libertarian-inclined people I know are minimal-statists rather than anarcho-capitalists -- i.e. they do see SOME (very limited) role for governement. And waging defensive war is certainly one of those roles. And how you defend yourself militarily is not something that can be judged according to any set of abstract principles. Reality is too complex and ever-changing for that. And it is a truism that offence can sometimes be the best and safest form of defence -- which is why I and many others support the efforts of GWB in the Middle East.

And one would think that even an anarcho-capitalist (and I was once one myself) could see that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. So surely even an anarcho-capitalist could work within the GOP on such badly-needed projects as the defence of free-trade. Given the amazing worldwide influence of rural gamblers (farmers) we may never get completely free trade but even some freeing up of trade would be beneficial to everybody. Anarcho-capitalists who cannot see that are just fanatics as far as I can see.

So the damage done by the LP is twofold: 1). The Florida debacle in the last election shows that the tiny number of votes that the LP gets just COULD siphon off enough GOP votes to put the old-Left John Kerry in the White House, and; 2). It deprives the major parties of libertarian ideas, influence and input from among their own ranks. If all the LP supporters came down to earth long enough to join one of the major parties, we might see a little more economic rationality and interest in freedom in the parties concerned. And that is all that I ever plan to say about the LP.

My personal credo as a libertarian conservative: I think all attempts to reform your fellow-citizens or tell them how to live their lives are arrogant and tyrannical. THAT'S why I oppose Leftism. I want people to be free to manage their own lives. "Reform" is just authoritarianism. People are not playthings for anybody's theories or obsessions.


No comments: