Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Goodbye Libertarian Party

My Party membership expired with the new year, and I don't plan to renew it for a variety of reasons. One, I shouldn't be spending money needlessly at this point and two, as I move toward the pastorate, it's time to leave the fun and games of partisan politics (gradually) behind me. Being a dues-paying, card-carrying member of an actual political party strikes me as crossing a line.

But most of all, because the Party is filled with utter wackos (and I'm saying that about these people). There isn't a place for moderates -- that is, non-anarchists. I don't use the term "anarchist" lightly, but in full reference to the Party leadership and dominant body which advocates a completely stateless society.

Some continue to live in a persistent false narrative whereby most Americans really are libertarian, but have never heard libertarian ideas coherently expressed (if at all) and are just waiting to flood the a halls of Congress and state legislatures with elected Libertarians if only they knew about us -- if only Libertarian candidates could get into electoral debates*. This was the basic message of the last 3 Presidential campaigns, and it is deeply flawed.

The problem is not that the American people don't know that they are libertarian because the message has not been widely spread, but that the American people (in general) understand libertarian political ideology and completely reject it. The problem is us -- we are an ideological minority.

And we always shall be. The Founding Fathers may have been strongly in favor of very reduced government power, but that was 200 years ago, and presently the American electorate holds an opposite view. Most political debate can be described as follows:

Republican candidate: "Issue A is a a very serious problem that people are facing. We need to spend X to resolve it."

Democratic candidate: "That's not enough. If we really care, we must spend 2X on the problem."

And so it goes -- health care, social security, the sniffles, etc. Both major parties, effectively representing the vast majority of the American electorate, see government as the solution to, rather than the cause of, most of the problems of American life. On rare occasions, Republicans may trot out the old Goldwaterian rhetoric of government as a predatory menace, and that it should stay out of people's affairs, but these are only speeches. Talk of an 'ownership society'. Talk of privatizing one-tenth of Social Security. But time passes and government grows ever more intrusive and budgets grow ever larger. There is no libertarian future. Why? Because the American people simply don't want small government.

We can still saddle up and fight the good fight, of course. The blogosphere, which is disproportionately libertarian, is a good place to do it. But the Libertarian Party is now completely in the hands of self-aggandizing idiotarians fighting internally for doctrinal purity instead of putting forward moderates who actually have a chance of getting elected.

*A rhetorical crutch that the LP uses to explain away its own failure -- Democratic and Republican conspiracy prevents Libertarian success. Otherwise, our crackpot candidates would win stunning majorities at the ballot box.

Hat tip.


David said...

It seems to me that electing Libertarians to office is a bit of a contradiction, especially if the party line is anarchist leaning. Isn't that a paradox or something?

John said...

Well, many LP candidates run for small local offices, such as dog catcher or water commissioner, promising to eliminate their own job position while in office. It's a common Libertarian ploy.

postliberal said...

There was a fascinating discussion of notions around Hamilton and Jefferson's aparently differing basic notions of American government. I have to say I'm glad that most people in the USA aparently prefer big government. Though insofar as it's a socially progressive and caring network, rather than an opressive and agressive agency of fource.

Michael said...

I understand your conflict between your pastorate and your political affiliation, but I don't know that withdrawing altogether is the answer, either. You are more likely to be heard from within.

I admit that I don't know much about Libertarian ideology except what you have shared. The philosophy is sound, but there also has to be that pastoral and moderate voice that helps folks to understand that too much dependence on an overwhelming government diminishes a need for an even Higher Power.

It seems to me that the future you forecast in an ever-expanding government is not that the government is theologically neutral but, rather, that big government is distinctly anti-faith. After all, why have faith when the government can give you everything you think you need?

John said...

I don't think that I would go that route, Michael. It could be equally used against modern medicine. "Why have surgery when you can pray your way out of a health problem? Using medicine shows a lack of faith in God."

Still, we have seen the Church in America give up its mission to help the poor and outsource it to the government -- such as the recent statement by the UMC and other mainline denomination against the federal budget proposed by the White House, which in their view, robs the poor of benefits. Instead of whining about government cutting said programs, perhaps these churches should focus on using their tithes and offerings in a more godly fashion.

Michael said...

Good point.

j2 said...

Sorry I was late to this thread. I gave up my membership card a few years ago, too. There were always some oddities about Libertarian-ism that I just couldn't square in my mind. One of is the need for ideological purity, but there was some other aspect I couldn't quite put my finger on. I found it when I realized that underneath the Libertarian political movement was a much more grandiose encampment of intellectual objectivist. They are a strong and outspoken group, though you never really see them. The Libertarian movement, cute as it can be, isn't more than a cover piece for those objectivist who are a little more ambitious in actualizing themselves. Objectivism, though, is the stick in my throat. It simply has never squared with my own personal experience of life, yet it actively demeans that experience. For instance, ask any objectivist about the existence of God and they will surely tell you that there is no supernatural entity outside of the superior reasoning of the human mind acting with perfect free will.

It is a completely upside down way of looking at the world for most people. It sets the stage for secular humanism. It blames the foibles and misery of man on coercive governments and misleading religions. Its liturgy is science and its object of worship the human mind. Too easily an adherent ignores the evidence all around them that contradicts that view, namely how fallable the human mind and reasoning are. Too quickly and pridefully they are to give all the credit for their success in life to themself. And their hope is not for heaven itself but the attainment of the singularity. "If only we all work hard enough to live forever then certainly eternal joy and pleasure will be ours!" Ecclesiastes would surely laugh at that.

Kenny said...

The ideology of libertarianism (small l) properly so-called is vehemently opposed to anarchism: it believes that the existence of government is absolutely critical in order to enforce the libertarian (negative) rights of the people, and that if you live somewhere where there is no government, you should institute one. Who are these people in the leadership of the Libertarian Party who oppose the existence of the state? Certainly not the recent presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik.

Personally, however, I'm becoming increasingly fed up with the Libertarian Party of Washington State which has twice joined the Democratic and Republican parties in suing the state to overturn primary systems in the past few years. The second primary system they are suing to overturn essentially eliminates government-run primaries (by having a general election when the primary would be, and a "top two" run-off when the general election would be, completely ignoring political parties). This system sounds like exactly the sort of thing libertarians should support, but until the last election Libertarians had "major party" status in Washington, so they were fighting to preserve their gauranteed spot on the November ballot, betraying their ideals in favor of the politically expedient, which is just what they accuse the Democrats and Republicans of.