Despite the bad name that people like Jim Quinn give Libertarians, the true definition of a Libertarian is someone who is socially liberal and economically conservative, and who believes that the rights of the people trump the powers of government always. Libertarians believe that people are responsible for themselves, and it’s not the government’s place in any respect to tell you what you can read, what you can say, what you can watch, or what you can put into your body. The only restrictions on peoples’ rights should be those that result in direct harm to another (save for self-defense situations). That is to say, your right to swing your fist is unrestricted except at the point where it meets my face—you are not permitted to strike me, and if you do, I have the right to defend myself in kind. It’s a pretty basic “do unto others” philosophy.
Libertarians do not stand behind arguments like, “drugs should be illegal because if you do drugs you’re hurting the people around you,” because once you bring FEELINGS into the equation, everything gets muddy and you can use FEELINGS to justify any kind of unfair law you like: it should, for example, be illegal for you to say you don’t like me because that hurts my feelings.
It’s not a perfect philosophy, but few are, and much like the U.S. legal system, while it sometimes fails us, it’s the best one out there.
Libertarians believe that marriage has nothing to do with religion, nor is it to be strictly defined as between a man and a woman. Libertarians believe that adults can be trusted to decide what to put into their body, and that legalizing drugs would not only cripple organized crime, but would create a new tax base that could raise BILLIONS for the government—possibly even making income tax (which we believe to be unconstitutional) no longer necessary, and that legalizing drugs would remove some of the stigma attached to drug addicts and thus make it more socially acceptable for them to seek help if they have a problem with addiction. Such help would also be more readily and openly available, like help for alcoholics is now. Libertarians are firmly on the pro-choice end of the spectrum in that debate, as we believe that whether or not abortion is morally right is moot; law doesn’t exist to tell us what is right and wrong in a moral sense, but what is good and bad for society. In no way does legal abortion create chaos or interfere with the smooth functioning of society. We also believe strongly in the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, because history shows us that the first thing a totalitarian regime does to solidify its power is disarm the people. When someone asks a libertarian why we need assault rifles to hunt, we reply, “We don’t; we need them to defend our rights from the government.” This is what our forefathers believed when they wrote the Constitution; we know this from additional writings people like Jefferson and Hamilton did to form an exegesis on the Constitution, a sort of “this is what we meant” explanation. That there is currently a huge disparity in the arms the government has and those the people have is not a rationale for taking MORE guns away from the people; quite the opposite, in fact.
I could go on, but you get the idea where libertarians stand as far as social issues go. The rights of the people should not be infringed upon by the government, except in specific instances where one person’s actions directly cause physical harm to another person, or where those actions cause a direct impediment on the smooth functioning of society.
Yes, I’m aware that there are those who believe abortion directly causes harm to another person. That’s a HUGE philosophical argument that I’m not even going to begin to address.
Now, if you read a lot of the propaganda about libertarianism (even some of the more poorly communicated stuff put out BY libertarians) it’s easy to think that economically, libertarians are absolutist nut-jobs. Rest assured, we are not. While we believe that a completely unregulated economy would be a lovely thing, it’s frankly not practical and suffers from the same inherent problem as absolute socialism: both situations depend upon an ideal situation—an utopian situation, if you will—to be in place before they are implemented…Marx even said as much regarding socialism. Herein lies the downfall: if you already have an utopia in place, changing it is unnecessary, and likely even detrimental to the delicate balance of said utopia.
So, when libertarians talk about an unregulated free market, this is an ideal towards which to strive, not a realistic situation to simply thrust upon people. Rather, it’s better to have what I like to term a Fair Market economy. Regulations should exist only to the extent that they enforce a truly level playing field across all players—big business, small business, and sole proprietorships should have the exact same strictures, regulations, and benefits. No tax breaks for multimillion dollar corps just because they are multimillion dollar corps; likewise, no special tax breaks just because a company is small, unless said tax breaks can be shown to prove that they would enable the small company to fairly and effectively compete with the large corporation (which in many cases they would). A capitalist economy depends on fair competition, and our corporate laws and economic policies should always be structured to ensure this sort of fair play exists, not to give some parties unfair benefits. We are not opposed to taxes per se. We are opposed to enforced taxes in which we have no say. Income tax, for example, is just yanked out of our check every period. No choice; they just take it. Sales tax, on the other hand, is by and large (theoretically) a tax of choice. We don’t tax essentials such as clothes and food; luxuries and amenities are taxed, and it’s a tax you choose to pay by purchasing luxuries and amenities.
Also, let’s not forget there are a range of people that fall into the libertarian “spectrum.” Some are more leftist, some more rightist. I tend towards the center by and large.
Now, why am I laying all this out? Well, I’ve been thinking about the state of affairs in our country lately. I am registered Libertarian because most of my beliefs fall in line with that party, but unlike many Republicans and Democrats I know, my party does not think for me and I don’t vote for a candidate just because they have “Libertarian” before their name. I’ve never voted straight-ticket in my life; I use my brain to decide who I’m voting for, not a letter. And let’s be honest, folks: we are stuck with a 2-party system in the United States right now. The existence of the Reform Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, and others are for all practical purposes an illusion. Most of us who don’t remotely agree with the Republicans or Democrats are all too often stuck with casting a vote for the lesser of two evils, or casting a protest vote for other parties, which amounts to little more than blindly screaming into the night. I’ve been reflecting a lot on this lately, and have recently come to the conclusion that right now, by and large, the democrats are the lesser of the two evils.
Yes, the democrats are WAY into big government and tax-and-spend policies. Yes, they’re WAY into banning guns and WAY into banning or censoring pretty much anything that scares them socially, like video games and music, all for the sake of the nebulous “the children.” And these concern me, pretty much equally across the board, as they’re means to control the way people live and think. However, the Republicans, while they want to let you keep your guns, have fallen into a mode where they pander to the lowest common denominator of the right. Religious freedom, for example, so long as we remember we’re a Christian country (huh?). Laws based on moral issues of good and evil, right and wrong.
The democrats are pretty consistent, and though they talk a good game, they rarely follow through with the kind of censorship or gun-banning that they preach on a national level, Clinton’s assault weapons ban notwithstanding (some would argue the Brady Bill was a direct attack on gun owners, but while there are issues with the implementation in some cases, I have yet to be convinced that background checks are a bad idea). Plus, the Supreme Court has been pretty strong in supporting our rights when things like handgun bans go up for challenge, and that’s what the Supreme Court is for. The democrats also aren’t trying to ban gay marriage because it’s morally wrong, take away women’s rights to their bodies, or enforce religion-based legislation upon us. I’ll be frank: a theocracy scares me a little more than toning down the bloodshed in Call of Duty 5.
It also occurs to me—and here’s the real kicker—that of the three presidents over the past 50-odd years that I would personally consider the most successful, or at least the most popular, two (John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton) have been Democrats, and the remaining one, Ronald Reagan, gave us a period of apparent prosperity that proved to be pretty illusory in retrospect and was actually only prosperous for the already wealthy. His policies led to a pretty serious economic crash which left George Bush the Elder with the same kind of quagmire that Obama found himself with, and it took the Clinton administration to fix it. Clinton left office and we had a period of relative prosperity as well as a government budget surplus…a surplus that George Bush the Younger’s administration burned on sending out $250 checks to everyone in the nation and then running up near-record deficits which the Republicans then oddly blamed on the Obama administration.
Now, through the 2000’s, the worst thing I can say about the democrats is that they’ve been pretty half-assed about things. John Kerry didn’t seem to know his ass from a hole in the wall, which proved problematic since he was running on the platform that he DID know better; Bush won out because frankly, the Democratic challengers were weak. Gore was little more than a wishy-washy environmentalist when the country wanted a cowboy, and Kerry changed his mind every twelve seconds about…well, everything. Kerry only lost because people figured better the devil they knew.
Sure, you can legitimately argue that Gore won that election in 2000, and I’d be hard-pressed to argue back, but my feelings about the outmoded electoral college system are too large for the scope of this blog.
I’m not saying Obama has been a great president; he’s largely maintained the status quo and his “audacity of hope” has turned into more of the same in Washington. While I don’t have specific problems with most of what he’s done (the NDAA debacle aside, and that’s enough, I suppose) he hasn’t been the dynamic communicator to reach across the aisle that we’d all hoped he would be. The economy appears to be recovering, slowly, but that there are still a woeful lack of jobs on Main Street, and gas prices are reaching $4.00 a gallon because he refuses to do what’s necessary to fix it, speak otherwise. In short, the jury’s still out on the economy. Oh, and don’t claim there’s nothing Obama can do about gas. When gas prices threatened to skyrocket during Clinton’s campaign, he opened the strategic reserves and flooded the market—twice—and that fixed the problem for another decade. Obama is for some reason afraid to do this, likely because our government likes to keep us scared and obedient these days.
Since Bush, Washington is more polarized than ever, and Obama hasn’t even made baby steps in this area. Given that most of his platform was “fix the economy, get out of Iraq, and end Washington partisanship,” he’s been something of a failure—Iraq is the only thing he’s pulled off. For the most part, his foreign policy has been nearly identical to Bush’s, just delivered with more tact and class and less of the perception of the U.S. as a blunt object.
So no, Obama hasn’t been what I’d call a shining success story, but he’s been better than Bush. The world, at least, doesn’t hate us as much as they did, though I expect that’s largely due to Hillary Clinton, who has been a fantastic Secretary of State, IMHO.
At the highest levels of government, it’s tough sometimes to see much difference between Republicans and Democrats. But at the party level, Republicans have apparently gone completely apeshit insane, while Democrats are coasting along. Of course, the media is to blame for this as well; of the four Republican presidential candidates out there, they continually focus on the most socially insane one of the group—Santorum—who has never even been close to winning the nomination. Seriously, the guy has never even closed the gap between him and Romney. And the only attack people can level at Romney is, “He’s disconnected from the public because he’s rich.” Really? Like the other candidates aren’t? Criticizing a politician for being rich is like criticizing a dog for having fur. Now the question is, does Romney actually represent most Republicans out there in his rather centrist views, or has the republican party really, honestly gone off the deep end like they appear to be going? I just don’t see the kind of political extremism out of the left these days that I see out of the right. I feel like the left is at least capable of reason when it comes to issues that are important to me, like my rights as a citizen, while the right is obsessed with being as conservative as possible and establishing a theocracy of moral law. I can’t count the number of campaign ads I’ve seen from Republicans claiming to be “the truly conservative candidate.” I look forward to Romney being able to drop that line of crap altogether and focus on his actual, centrist views during the Presidential campaign. Should be interesting to see how it plays out so long as he doesn’t let himself get trapped by rhetoric or feel too obligated to defend his Mormon beliefs (which he shouldn’t have to do anyway).
This isn’t to say that there haven’t been hyperbolic statements made by the left—“the Republican war on women” comes to mind, when this “war on women” is largely confined to a specific subset of ultra-conservatives and not Republicans in general (and let’s face it; laws passed by some state body in the Bible Belt aren’t indicative of the national state of a party by any stretch). But by and large, the way Democrats are presenting themselves these days is far more, well, sane than the way that Republicans are presenting themselves.
I haven’t made up my mind for whom I’m casting my vote in November—be it Romney, Obama, or some miracle third-party candidate who manages to catch the public’s genuine interest. And when I do, I probably won’t announce my choice here. These are just some observations when looking at the landscape of late. The Republicans are falling apart from the inside out, and someone with a brain in their head, a rational pattern of thought, and some genuinely centrist views needs to step up in that party and clean house, because Americans are sick to death (by and large, with some exceptions) of this extremist crap in Washington.