Because it was only Ron Paul who said something truly distinct this campaign about the very natureo f power. Namely, that government should have less of it on all levels and in every instance. “I don’t want to run your life,” Paul says. “I don’t want to run the economy. … I don’t want to run the world.” Such sentiment is simultaneously radical and fully in the Jeffersonian tradition of governing best while governing least. The right to be left alone, as Justice Louis Brandeis once put it, is at the very center of the American experiment because it allows individuals and the communities they form to pursue happiness in competing, peaceful ways.
Pretty decent article – as can be expected from Gillespie and Welch. A critical note though: I don’t really think Maher can be called a proper libertarian – sure, he’s right on some issues and he is amusing (sometimes) but on other issues he’s just plain socialist. So yeah – maybe their point is that some libertarian principles are creeping into the mainstream – but plenty of others (and I’m thinking mostly about the economic ones) aren’t. Unfortunately.
Let’s look at their policiy suggestions to further illustrate what I’m trying to say:
1. Legalize online gambling.
Just not that important for the big picture. Sure, a fairly popular message and one that is pretty libertarian – but there’s just so much more that’s a lot more important and a lot more libertarian rather than just open-minded.
2. Make the Internet tax moratorium permanent.
Again – not really all that libertarian. As the article points out – we’re not talking about the 15% that are broadly libertarian. There’s far bigger support for most of these measures and it’s mostly stupidity that has so far made sure that neither of the two parties has made this happened.
3. Ban the use of eminent domain for private gain.
Now, eminent domain admittedly took me some hard thinking. Hardest issue I had to resolve in my own mind but in a moment of clarity I realised that there’s just really no justification for eminent domain no matter how comfortable a tool it might be. So, again, while it might be something libertarian it could also be something that liberals use to paint corporations as big, bad, evil people who’re trying to rip off the little guy. A truly libertarian measure would go far further and would hurt the liberals as well (like, making it impossible for them to pass some of their pet projects).
4. Bring the troops home, already.
Not exactly libertarian either. This one pretty much won the Democrats the 2006 election and I’m not sure whether a majority of American shares the non-interventionist philosophy (just look at Darfur!). The problem really is that they’re talking about a bunch of stuff that liberals want and then say “there are a lot of young liberals in the US today” but instead of saying “liberal” they’re saying “libertarian”. What would be interesting would be to take some libertarian issues that are closer to conservatives and try and say how well these go down with that new “libertarian” crowd. Not to be a horrible pessimist – but I really do think we’re talking about a “liberal” revolution and not a libertarian one. Sure, there’s a nice group of young libertarian-minded people – i.e. the ones that really liked RP – but that’s not a terribly big surprise. The US is a country with an awful lot of people and an awfully nice history of libertarian-leaning ideas. But that’s not the picture they’re trying to paint here.
5. Grant amnesty—er, citizenship— to illegal immigrants.
See above – this might not apply to the Hillary Clinton Democrats but it probably does to Barack Obama Democrats – the young, the bright, the elite. College students and the like. The people they’re talking about. The people opposed to (illegal) immigration are the xenophobes on the right and the working class on the left – with Lou Dobbs as the symbol linking the two groups. The business wing of the GOP and the young people among the Democrats really don’t think along those ways. And I just don’t see this group they’re talking about as part of the business wing of the GOP…
Also – RP really didn’t campaign as a big fan of immigration. He (apparently) sounded quite different in 1988 and might not really have meant what he said (and he did make some encouraging noises about allowing more legal immigration) – but does that really make him any better than all the other politicians?
6. Let patients smoke dope.
Again – same problem. Water down the issue until enough people agree. They aren’t talking about legalising all drugs, which would (as far as I’m concerned) be the libertarian thing to do (for moral and practical reasons). They aren’t even talking about legalising dope PERIOD. They’re just talking about a very small aspect of a huge problem. Sure, it would be a step in the right direction – but it wouldn’t exactly be anything other than a baby step.
7. Decouple health insurance from employment.
Sure, this might be somewhat libertarian. But the real issue in health care in the US right now is avoiding universal care. And that, unfortunately, is a very popular measure – and dare I say – also among these young pseudo-libertarians. They might not really sign up once it’s time to foot the bill – but in priniciple they’re in favour of the idea.
They’re also ignoring a vast amount of very important issues – ones that I’d personally consider more important than the ones they’re talking about – that I think there wouldn’t be broad public support for. Not even among these young people they’re speaking of.
Let me just throw a few issues out there that I’d consider important:
- Free trade: How’s that working out? How big is support for NAFTA?
- Reforming social security: How are those private savings accounts coming along?
- School choice: yeah, really think the broad public’s going to embrace vouchers any time soon?
Of those, the last one’s probably most likely to work out anywhere close to the way I’d like it to. On the other hand, universal health care is pretty much unavoidable by now and the US isn’t going to stop playing world police any time soon either.
I’d love to get excited about their message here – after all it’s much better to feel positive (even though I like being grumpy) about one’s philosophy and politics but I just don’t see it happening.