Why is the libertarian movement so small? Freedom is popular! Freedom is ingrained in the roots of our culture. Free spirits are everywhere. Why aren’t they in the Libertarian Party? OK, maybe the last question was a bad one. Libertarians can have many reasons for not joining the LP: the party is too radical, not radical enough, too ineffective, too bureaucratic, etc. But why aren’t these free spirits libertarians in the broader sense of the word? Why are so many of them liberals, advocates of bureaucracy and the nanny state? Why do some free spirits wear Capitalism Kills T-shirts?
Answer: capitalism does kill…the spirit, for many. If you work on an assembly line or in some other repetitive job, capitalism means regimentation, boredom, and a stifling of the spirit. Study the works of Fredrick Taylor. Yevgeny Zamyatin based his dystopian novel We on the management theories of Fredrick Taylor – who developed said theories for capitalists. When we libertarians think of young adults put in uniforms and under orders, we think of the military. But guess who else is putting thousands of young people into uniform? McDonalds! I leave it to the reader to decide which uniformed service is more regimented.
Libertarians call for liberty, or, in particular: freedom from the initiation of force by government. This is a freedom, and a very important freedom at that. But freedom is a bigger concept. Some years ago I wrote several chapters on "What is Freedom?" and came up with three broad categories of freedom: freedom from the government, freedom from the boss, and freedom from everyone else. Most libertarians focus on the first and downplay the other two, and lose the hearts of most freedom lovers in the process.
Freedom is about having options in life – good options. Who is more free: the single mom in a capitalist country who has to work double shifts at the barbecue restaurant in order to pay her childrens’ medical bills, or her well-cared-for counterpart in a European welfare state?
When young free spirits see libertarians celebrating capitalism, they see authoritarians celebrating wage serfdom. When they see libertarians call for selling off federal lands, they see more No Tresspassing signs and the Disneyfication of the nicer national parks. They see their world shrinking.
The Ron Paul Revolution attracted many more free spirited young adults than the explicit libertarian movement ever did. In part this is because Ron Paul was a proven anti-war politician at a time of unpopular war. But the other part is just as important: Ron Paul is part of the old conspiracy-oriented anti-capitalist Right. This Old Right looks back to smaller government and smaller private enterprises: family farms, locally owned businesses, smaller scale manufacturers where brand name equals the company producing the product. The Old Right’s conspiracy theories revolve around international bankers, robber barons, and super rich families weaving a web of wealth and power to centralize all.
I don’t buy these Bircher style conspiracy theories. Sure, some robber barons and their old money scions may conspire from time to time for special priviledges, as do all other societal factions. But the idea of a secret unified New World Order plot hatched behind closed doors by a hierarchical elite defies the data. Second generation money is not that disciplined! The Paris Hiltons of the world are not behind the growth of big government.
Government is secretly subsidizing the super rich , however. But it’s an open secret, a purloined letter . Keynesian economics is the economics of ensuring that investors have enough return on their investments so they don’t store extra money in the cookie jar. Keynesian economics is about subsidizing the rich! We who like our government small need to shout this from the rooftops. There is no need for a conspiracy backstory; in this enlightened age, such backstories dilute credibility and associate liberty with racism and anti-Semitism. Not good.
Once upon a time, freedom and liberty were tied together politically. The classical liberals worked for smaller government and a smaller wealth gap. Adam Smith called for higher wages and lower profits. If we want government small with democracy at the same time, we need to recreate the old alliance. Otherwise, the young free spirits will worship Obama and turn the U.S. into a European style welfare state.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Libertarianism-An American View
As long as Libertarians breathe they will debate what Libertarianism actually is. There will also be Libertarians who claim that a Libertarian Party is a contradiction in terms. My view is that we need to be realistic Libertarians, aim for the ultimate, whatever that may be, but be realistic about your achievements and what you may achieve. Without using the system to fight we will forever wallow in isolation having idealogical arguments, while achieving nothing. I found this article an interesting little addition to the debate. C.S. Milsted Jr on Nolan Chart.com.