Tuesday, February 13

Attention libertarians: We come in peace.

One of the beneficial side effects of George W. Bush's so far disastrous presidency -- kind of like, Man, that six months of chemotherapy really sucked, but hey, I lost 30 pounds -- is that it has all but vaporized the longstanding myth that Republicans, even those who claim to be dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, really give a rat's ass about smaller government.

Libertarian-leaning conservatives, in particular, are getting pissed in a big way, as well they should be. I'll give you an example in my friend Josh, whom I've known and sparred with politically since college. Josh gives me plenty of grief for being a bleeding-heart pinko liberal, and I fire right back at him with plenty of pointed questions about how, if he's such a big libertarian, he's always pulling the "R" lever when shit-or-get-off-the-pot time rolls around every November. But at the risk of sounding patronizing, Josh has made some big strides lately, and he's been making them faster than a whole bunch of his conservative brethren: He rightly saw last fall's Congressional election results as a big wake-up call for the GOP, and he laid into Georgia's so-called conservative governor, Sonny Perdue, for apparently not thinking that Georgia's citizens are grown-up enough to even determine for themselves whether they should be allowed to buy beer on a Sunday.

If you can buy it on Sunday in Lynchburg, Virginia, Jerry Falwell's backyard -- and you can -- you should be able to buy it on Sunday in Atlanta.

Am I sitting around waiting for Josh to start voting Democratic with a vengeance? Nope. I just now tried to picture him hanging out at one of the Tent City tailgates wearing an Obama '08 T-shirt and proclaiming an acute case of Barack fever, and it was about the most surreal thing I've ever imagined. (Don't even get me started on Hillary Clinton.) But as a left-leaning Democrat, I don't think it's too much to ask that libertarians, or at least those who purport to be, take a step back and ask themselves if the Democrats are still the real antagonists to their beliefs these days.

For the longest time the liberal has seemed to be the bane of the libertarian's existence. Neal Boortz, to my mind a LINO if ever there was one, inveighs against liberals with a vengeance on his radio show, but makes only passing criticisms of so-called conservatives. Up until recently, at least, groups like the CATO Institute railed against big government and blamed it all on liberals.

But let's take a look at some of the things that people like Josh and Neal Boortz consider "libertarian." For starters, they're both pro-choice as far as I know. Guess what? So are the Democrats. They're also pro-gay-rights, or at least they don't think the government has any place restricting them. Neither do the Democrats. Freedom of speech is paramount? The Democrats think so, too -- it's the so-called conservative Republicans who have been pushing stuff like the anti-flag-burning amendment. And I could write a whole month's worth of posts about how the Democrats have been the only ones really fighting for civil liberties the past six years, as George W. Bush has repeatedly taken a Ginsu blade to the Constitution with the full support of the formerly Republican-controlled Congress.

Oh, so that's where that ended up. Hey, who wants to suspend the right to due process?

A lot of libertarians (or people who call themselves as such) have, deep down, recognized that for a long time, yet they still primarily attack Democrats and liberals because of the old "tax-and-spend" stereotype. But that doesn't really apply all that much anymore.

One of the first major proposals from the new Democratic Congress -- yes, the Democratic Congress run by that horrible San Francisco liberal, Nancy Pelosi -- was to make some of the big budget cuts that their Republican predecessors hadn't had the balls to make in six years under Bush. They also passed a measure that would bring pork-barrel spending under greater scrutiny and make it easier to trace such projects back to their sponsors, something even the ultraconservative Republican representative Jack Kingston had to applaud.

This was necessary, of course, because government spending has has risen faster under Bush 43 than under any president since FDR -- and that's even if you don't take his increases in defense spending into account. Pork-barrel spending, needless to say, has set new records as well. (I could also go on and on about how that horrible liberal Clinton did a vastly better job of balancing the budget than anybody since WWII, including conservative demigod Ronald Reagan, but that's for another time.)

Are the Democrats going to be able to wave their magic wands and rectify this sad situation immediately? Or even before the 2008 elections? Not likely -- but it's worth pointing out that the only consistent budget surpluses since the 1950s happened under, again, that horrible liberal Bill Clinton. And Clinton is the only president in the last 30 years to have actually paid down any portion of the national debt. (As opposed to Bush, who just added more than $3 trillion right back to it.)

My grandkids are going to be paying this thing off. Thanks, dillwipe.

Now, again, I'm a liberal. Which means I likes me some social programs, some of which I'm sure make true diehard libertarians cringe. But first and foremost, I want to make sure the budget is balanced -- social programs or no, I don't believe in spending money we don't have. And as much as libertarians hate taxes, I still think I'm closer to their ideal philosophy than the Republicans who subscribe to the absurd notion that you can slash taxes, jack discretionary spending through the roof, and somehow not end up with a complete disaster on your hands.

So look, libertarians, I don't expect you to start loving Hillary Clinton. I don't expect you to abandon your tax-cutting principles. Honestly, I don't even expect you to start voting Democratic. But I do think it might be a good idea for you to re-evaluate who your friends are -- and who's really presenting the fiercest opposition to the things you want done. Because it isn't the Democrats who have exploded federal spending over the last six years. It isn't the Democrats who think you should be governed by a Christian worldview whether you want to be or not. It isn't the Democrats who are trying to dig into your stuff and find out whom you've been calling on your cell phone and which library books you've been checking out. It isn't the Democrats who tried to throw out the 800-year-old tradition of fricking habeas corpus. And it isn't the Democrats who subscribe to the "unitary executive" theory, a school of thought whose quest to place as much authority as possible in the hands of the executive branch would seem to go against not only everything libertarianism stands for, but against the very ideas upon which this country was founded to begin with.

So all I'm asking is that you don't automatically train your guns on the so-called liberals when you're getting your dander up about expanding government. Try zeroing in on those so-called conservatives once in a while - you'll probably find a lot more to get angry about.

Oh, and if you're going to call yourself a libertarian, then you might want to try actually voting libertarian once in a while. If you want libertarians to become a valid third-party alternative, support 'em! Personally, I would love it if a viable third (or even fourth or fifth) party started gaining some traction, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be the libertarians. And if the day ever comes when the Libertarian Party becomes the major-party voice for smaller-government conservatism, with the Republicans being reduced to thrown-together meetings in basements and library meeting rooms . . . well, I won't exactly be shedding any tears over that. But then I don't suspect you will be, either.


Josh M. said...

Ok, since I'm singled out here, I feel the need to reply immediately. This deserves a much longer reply, of course, but I'm at work and these things are frowned upon. But here are some quick points:

1) First, kudos on the post. Good stuff. Of course, I'm such an egomaniac that anything written about me is stellar work.

2) It's not so much as "Republicans aren't our friends, so let's see who else is." It's that NOBODY in Washington is a true little-l liberatarian's friend. From our perspective, there just isn't much difference between the two parties anymore.

3) I've cast my ballot for more Libertarians than Republicans for about five or six years now. I will admit, though, that I did vote Bush twice, and have gone Big-R in some of the more high profile races. (I even voted in the Democratic primary a few years back - but only to vote against Cynthia McKinney.)

Anonymous said...

Some of us Libertarians out there aren't afraid to vote for the libertarian candidate when there's one to vote for. Still more of us aren't afraid to vote Democratic when there isn't a Libertarian candidate. My wife may tell me I'm throwing my vote away by voting for a third-party candidate, especially in an area where the Republican party has such a strong foothold, but I feel that my vote today tells all parties involved that there's interest in seeing that third party gain strength and become a respectable player.

The Libertarian party in my area actually does a pretty good job of evaluating all candidates and all positions, and recommending the right way to vote - more often then not that vote tends to be for the Democratic candidate or position (at least in our last election). Not always, to be sure, but more often than not.

And Josh - Any vote against McKinney is a good one.

Anonymous said...

not a republican, nor a democrat like you sir, but damn if that didn't bring a tear to my eye. wish i could have said it like that myself.

DAve said...

Good points all around.

I think the reason libertarians tend to direct more of their pointed criticisms towards "liberals" is twofold:

1) Much of the historical libertarian literature (Bastiat's "The Law" immediately comes to mind - I recommend it highly) were constructed as counterarguments to socialism/communism. Socialism/communism = leftist, "liberal" = leftist. Hence the connection. I'm not suggesting that's right per se, I'm just saying.

2) Democrats still have the stigma of being the spending party, as you mentioned, despite the Republicans' best efforts to snatch that title away.

Additionally, I'm of the opinion that many people who claim themselves as "liberal" in the correct, classical sense, simply aren't. I don't read a ton of political blogs and whatnot, but I'm surprised that the term "neolib" hasn't taken root the way "neocon" has, since both are accurate descriptions of the ideological shifts of the Democratic and Republican parties of today.

Libertarianism = Classical Liberalism

NeoLiberalism = Infant Socialism

NeoConservatism = Infant Fascism

I think many libertarians tend to also see NeoLiberalism as being closer today to pure Socialism than NeoConservatism is to pure Fascism, which also could explain the imbalance in criticism.

DAve said...

Just to touch on Josh's point #2, I know I've brought him up in another post here recently, but I would encourage folks to take a good look at Texas congressman Ron Paul. He definitely is a "little-l" friend of libertarians.

Dan said...

I'd vote libertarian if they'd bother to put forth a candidate that could get elected Hall Monitor, much less President.

Right now I still pretty much look for middle of road Reps and Dems.

Josh M. said...

The Libertarians need their own Schwarzenegger, that's for sure. And by that I mean a big name candidate for a big-time job that will draw attention to the party.

Is Tom Selleck available?

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

Whoa . . . you just exercised the nuclear option right there. No matter how liberal I am or may yet become, I would jump at the chance to cast my ballot for Tom Selleck regardless of race, circumstance, or opponent. Not only is he a badass, but he's also a half-Slovak like myself. Magnum/Higgins '08? I would totally go there.

And just for the record, I didn't mean it to sound like I was calling you out or anything -- you're just the person I find myself having these liberal-vs.-libertarian discussions with most often. And we think enough alike on so many non-political issues (movies, chicks, the Bulldogs, etc.) that I think I've just about completely forgiven you for voting for W twice.

Shan said...

Complex political arguments and beliefs simply cannot be boiled down to a pithy blog comment. So, just the high points:

1. I'm a card carrying Libertarian. Voted L in almost every election where a candidate was offered.

2. If faced with the choice of Republican or Democrat (only), my hierarchy of voting is going to be based on A. lower taxes for everyone across all brackets B. getting rid of extraneous social programs and things the government shouldn't be funding (IMO) and C. agreement with my belief system on individual liberties and freedoms. Personally, I'm all about the Dems on C. Live and let live, keep fictional "deities" out of our schools and government, let people get married (and divorce) and be miserable with whomever they choose. If there was a Dem who gave a real "read my lips" speech, and threatened to take a ginsu to social programs, I'd be the first to wear a donkey sweatshirt. However, the political reality is that candidates are so beholden to "the party" and "funding" that no one is ever going to match up A, B and C for me. So I've had to prioritize, like most people, and choose the best of the bad options. Unless someone comes out of nowhere, I'm basically forced to consider: Will Rudy run like he thinks and win the nom, or will Obama cut taxes and the BS programs? Or, more likely, will I hate everyone and vote just on taxes?

3. Posters above are right – for the Libertarians to make any kind of headway other than at the local level (where they are, albeit very slowly), you've got have a Teddy Roosevelt, an Arnold, a Ventura, a Nader or a Perot that can capture some imagination and have built in recognition and funding outside the "system." Sadly, that's not on the horizon.

4. While there are some out there that actually consider the issues and the complexities associated with them, about 90% of the public will basically say "war is bad!" or "god is good!" and pull the lever.

5. I'm all board with Magnum/Higgins 08. TC for SecDef and Rick for Sec of the Interior, and J. Digger Doyle for Sec of State.

NCT said...

Dude, your blog just go so spammed.

Shan's comments interested me. Certainly, he's free to prioritize any way he wishes, and this really isn't intended to be a moral judgment, but the candidate more likely to support lower taxes but erode personal civil liberty trumps the candidate more likely to protect personal civil liberty but nudge up taxes? Really? I know it's a tough call, and I loves me my money, but I gots enough to get by -- I won't be helpless. But I am pretty much helpless against a government who wants to control my religious beliefs and sexual behavior (just as two big examples), not to mention kill in my name for reasons with which I absolutely can't agree.

Seriously, my effort to avoid couching this in terms that sound like a moral judgment has failed, but I really don't mean it as one in this case. It really does get to me, though. My oft-repeated observation during the last presidential election was "any atrocity for a tax cut."

I've gotta stop. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

So Anon, what size tin foil hat do you recommend?
Also, you might want to switch to decaf. It can be quite tastey!

Anonymous said...

Generally agree with your assessment Doug, that the authoritarian wing of the Republican party is ascendant, and it's not pretty.

However, a first-past-the-post simple majority approach to voting isn't going to permit a meaningful third party. About the only place I can think of with two major parties that were balanced by a third minority party is Germany: the Free Democrats into the 90s and the Greens since the late 90s... and that's largely attributable to their blend of directly elected representatives joined by the proportional representation folks from the "party lists" of any party posting more than 5% of the votes.

If you instituted that system tomorrow in the US, you'd pretty immediately see the rise of the libertarian party. I'd be curious to see what the fracture lines in the Democratic and Republican parties would be.

Oh, got to go, Football Manager (TM) is telling me that it's time for an away leg.

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

Just in case anyone was curious, that "anonymous" comment rang in at 14,232 words. I don't think there's even been a post that long in the history of this blog.

At the risk of plagiarizing Bill Maher, new rule: If your comment has extended past, oh, 1,500 words and you're still typing furiously, it might be time to start your own blog.

Alex said...

Ah, the Dubya edition Ginsu knife.

Cutting through the cement block of civil liberties.

Like buttah.

Shan said...

Hey, NCT -- no "moral offense" taken. Believe me, I realize that oppression of finances and oppression of freedoms is a Sophie's Choice at best. I'd love to live in a world where someone represented, and could win, espousing both. However, the glib, and probably true, tie-breaking answer is that lower taxes impact me immediately, and draconian theocracy negligibly affects me in the short term. I'm a chain smoker and will probably be dead before the zealots truly impact my ability to behave like I want. At this point, moral relativism seems like a far away dream, whereas the other "freedom" is pounded away every April 15th.

DAve said...

I see you've already deleted the 1500 word spam comment - lemme guess: was it a nonsensical mess about the gods and computers and clones?

What about a Ron Paul/Drew Carey ticket? Or Penn/Teller? Or, better yet, Teller/Penn? How awesome would that SOTU be?

Jeff Johnson said...

I'm another one of those card-carrying Libertarians. I echo the sentiments of Shan in that I vote 1) Lower taxes 2) A cut to social programs and other forms of government intervention and 3) Social issues. (I happen to be pro gay rights, but oddly anti-abortion because I believe it hinders another person's right to life...story for another day). Anyway, I find myself evaluating candidates at this point.

Obama and Hillary lose me at universal healthcare. I can't sit idly by and watch them destroy the best health care system on the planet. We just need to find a way to control costs, and solutions exist within the private markets. See Romney's healthcare plan for Massechusetts. I'm guardedly optimistic.

Right now, it looks like Giuliani ( I just think he'd be a great leader) and Romney ( I find myself agreeing more with his politics and ideology than anyone else. You've gotta love a good flip-flopper).

Bottomline is, that if social issues are what drive you, then I can see where a libertarian would lean democratic in the general election. But, if taxes and free market economy are the driver, that's where the libertarian has gotta vote republican. I just don't believe government is the solution to all our problems. Sorry Chuck Schumer, I just don't think you're right on this one. For more, see Charlie Rose's interview with Schumer or read Schumer's new book. It makes my skin crawl! :)


Josh M. said...

Jeff's last paragraph is spot on. I just put taxes and free market economy over social issues, but that's for one reason: I believe the president affects the former much more than the latter. For proof, take a look at abortion. The Republicans have had the White House for 18 of the last 26 years, and Roe v. Wade isn't going anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Yawn. I must be typing the wrong address, because I keep getting DailyKos instead of anything vaguely football-related. We need to petition the NCAA to extend college football all year so bloggers will have some fodder, or you could start following college basketball.

Either way, I'm getting a little weary of "zomg Bush stole all my rights I'm going to complain about how fascist the government is openly on the internet with no interference." Scratch that, I'm getting really weary.

Tommy said...

As I posted on my own blog: "I appreciate the invitation to get under the Democrats' tent, but all I'm ever gonna do is hang by the keg and eat the finger food. Democrats recruiting Libertarians on the premise that we're disenfranchised conservatives is like Catholics recruiting moderate Muslims because they're not down with beheadings: there are still too many fundamental differences to make this anything more than a marriage of convenience."
Yes, I am a conservative who's managed to go the past two presidential elections without voting for Bush. But the enemy of my enemy isn't necessarily my friend.

Anonymous said...

Great read and well thought out responses. I'm a Libertarian as well and social issues run mid pack for me. Border Security,Taxes,Capitalism and Less Government interference in my "pursuit of happiness" always gets my attention first. Universal healthcare scares my paycheck!
*bookmark blog now*

Astronaut Mike Dexter said...

I want to thank you all for contributing to this discussion and sharing your ideas in a very reasoned, collegial manner. As for the person who is currently putting a gun to anonymous's head and forcing him to continue reading this blog, I want you to stop it, right now. That is not nice.

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