America’s Political System Leaves Libertarians Homeless
Author: B Wilds
Sadly, in America’s two-party political system Libertarians are left Homeless. The libertarian philosophy or ideology has many facets. Running through all of them is the idea that less government is generally a good thing. This reminds me of what President Ronald Reagan, famously said: The nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Such words resonate with most libertarians.
While the government may claim it has good intentions history shows it often finds a way to muck things up. This is due to the fact that “government” is comprised of both corrupt and fallible human beings. This is a toxic combination that tends to create policies that screw things up. This takes a variety of shapes, including costly or unintended consequences.
While some people write a blog for financial gain, others of us do so seeking as wide a base of readership as possible in order to have our opinions heard and share ideas. It is fair to say that on occasion some readers, with opposing opinions refuse to agree to disagree. Below is a comment from one of those fellas taking issue with my claim libertarian views do not align with those of the right, part of what he is saying reflects the confusion surrounding libertarian philosophy.
Libertarian, or far-right, what’s the difference? So many times in the past, I’ve read blogs and websites from the far-right, in which they love to cloak themselves in the term of “libertarian,” but the rest of the Rational world understands your dog-whistle politics and misanthropic social ideals. Do your criticisms flow both ways? Where’s your hard-and-fast criticism of the political ideologues on the far right?
In truth, the views of those claiming to be libertarians often conflict with those of other libertarians and even the Libertarian Party. We tend to be an odd lot and that is why the Libertarian Party may be doomed to failure. It seems the elephant in the room is the question of exactly where one person’s rights start and where another begins. A libertarian is committed to the principle that freedom and liberty are the most important political values. This means we should be able to make our own choices about our own life, what we do with our body and our property. In short, other people should not forcibly interfere with our liberty, and we should not forcibly interfere with theirs.
Over the years, you would think the failure of big government to address our problems and woes would have convinced more voters expanding the role of government is not the answer. The cost of big government and the reality Washington seldom accomplishes its goals is beginning to nibble at the theory more government is good for society. While Government may be better at giving people access to services and good at passing popular laws, the private sector is by far more efficient and better at controlling costs.
Over the last two centuries the United States government has been steadily moving away from Adam Smith’s idea of limited government and towards the view of Abraham Lincoln that government should do for the people, whatever needed to be done. The Democratic Party has long been thought of as the party of “big government.” Filled with believers that more government can make things right they claim they care about the “little guy,” women, workers, minorities. They are big supporters of unions, more rules, and more regulations.
We, libertarians, looking for a port in any storm often find ourselves in the Republican camp but it is a poor fit. In politics many of the positions people take reek of conflict. The pursuit of an agenda or political advantage often results in people working together who would not otherwise normally socialize with one another, politics makes strange bedfellows. An example of this is how President Obama had the support of business-minded Republicans when pursuing trade deals while his party fought the idea.
Another example of this is how the mainstay Republican party stabbed Trump in the back on several occasions. Clearly, it was Libertarians and Populists that allowed Trump to get elected. In a piece authored by Tho Bishop via The Mises Institute, he writes, “Since 2016, the role of libertarians in political discourse has tended to devolve away from a relevant political demographic into a weird scapegoat for the Left and Right.” Bishop goes on to point out what I contend is a major problem, and that is, while the libertarian electorate may not be valued, it is a very important demographic. This is because during Presidential elections those voting for a Libertarian Presidential candidate can flip enough delegates to give one party an undeserved victory in the electoral college.
Libertarians are often misunderstood, they believe people are basically good and are endowed by their Creator with natural rights, including the rights of life, liberty, and property. In the United States, libertarians often embrace a political philosophy that advocates small government and is culturally liberal and fiscally conservative. This is far different from what is offered up in America’s two-dimensional political spectrum mainly made up of conservatives with ridged right-wing social values and liberals that embrace big government and the spending that supports it.
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Big government is not just an American problem and tends to be even worse in countries established long ago. It seems corruption and government both tend to grow in unison over time. The reality of ever-larger government has manifest itself in more scandals as departments overreach their missions. This can be seen in the military, the IRS, NSA, and huge incomprehensible bills being passed by Congress while our government often fails to accomplish the tasks it is given.
Like the Populist, until the system changes, libertarians should expect to remain a small swing group looking for a home. As for the idea of reforming or improving our election system, that is very unlikely to happen as neither major party wants to introduce a change that might benefit the other. The entrenched interest of the elites within the system block change. The small hope for change can be found in shifting demographics that are rapidly shrinking the Republican Party. If they do not adopt a more populist message and a big tent policy they will continue to lose power. This could have a very negative impact on America going forward.
The polarization we see today may be mild compared to what we see in ten years if a large segment of the population feels its voice is silenced. If the checks and balances in our system fail, expect anger to grow as more Americans begin to feel even more left out in the cold. The saying “be careful what you wish for” may again be proven true as those wanting more government intervention experience the limits of government and bureaucracy while burdened by the financial cost it imposes. We must remember that government is often not constrained by the power of the purse to strive for efficiency, where a business fails when it does not meet its goals of providing a good service or product at a reasonable cost government muddles on.
The open-ended theme of larger Government is generally a mechanism to in some way transfer wealth. Mandates often unfunded are fostered upon business organizations and private citizens. A new proactive movement of “cuteness” cloaked in a veil of flexibility and diversity has allowed politicians and bureaucrats to use terms like “Private Public Partnership” and “quasi-government entities” that mask just how deep its roots have grown. These terms open a pathway for politicians to tinker without the personal financial risk that a businessman must take. Those within government love being creative especially when they do so on our dime. The use of sun-set legislation is underused when it comes to extending and renewing government bodies. We tend to forget that the best time to kill a monster is while it’s small.
It is the nature of bureaucracy to expand. It often takes courage to make difficult and unpopular political and economic decisions that will cause pain but benefit society in the long run. A political system that encourages sidestepping these issues to pander to the masses in exchange for remaining in power pays a tremendous price that can stay hidden for only so long. This is a trap America has slipped into, getting out of this will prove quite difficult. I seriously question whether we have the fortitude to take the necessary steps required.
Footnote; This post dovetails with many of my writings. Some of my solutions may come across as provocative but are food for thought. For more on government’s role in our lives, related articles may be found in my blog archive, thanks for reading.