Today, I would like to speak on the state of the Libertarian Party.
When I first starting considering myself a Libertarian as a teenager, I was attracted to the particular combination of policy positions Libertarians held. Logic trumped emotion in all areas. Libertarians knew, logically, that if two men got married, it affected no one but them. So we opposed laws against gay marriage. We knew the welfare state obviously lead to dependency and laziness. So we opposed the welfare state. We knew that if someone used drugs, that wasn’t violating anyone else’s rights. So we opposed the drug war.
We knew that if terrorists in Afghanistan attacked America, it made zero sense to then bomb Iraq. So we opposed random attacks on foreign countries.
Today, many of those issues have shifted past the world of logic, and into the world of emotionalism. Other issues have become less relevant.
Consider gay rights. Today, gay marriage is legal everywhere. Gay issues now involve public accommodation laws (“bake the cake”) and trans rights. “Bake the cake” laws violate the natural rights of business owners. And someone with male biology stating that they are a woman is more an emotional than a logical argument.
We’ve reached a turning point in the drug war. Marijuana is getting legal everywhere. Psychedelic mushrooms have been legalized in one jurisdiction, with more soon to follow.
The initial appeal of Libertarianism, as something “Socially Liberal and Fiscally Conservative”, is no longer inherently logical. The socially liberal views of the past were obviously logical. The socially liberal views of today? They are mostly emotional. It’s hardly any surprise that big displays of empathy and constant virtue signalling have become the norm for libertarian leaders. As “socially liberal” has become more and more irrational and emotional, the leadership has followed suit.
Socially liberal used to mean socially libertarian. Today, it does not.
Fiscally conservative holds some theoretical meaning. But very few Libertarian leaders and candidates are actually displaying meaningful fiscal conservatism. The majority of LP candidates support, for example, government schools. Some even work at them, and consider that a good thing!
Are Libertarians more fiscally conservative than neoconservatives? Absolutely. Are they more fiscally conservative than Trump Republicans, paleoconservatives, alt-right factions, and “small-l” libertarians? Based on the platform, definitely. Based on the reality of our candidates and leaders? I’m not so sure.
Are big L libertarians more opposed to minimum wage laws, the income tax, the welfare state, and government schools than elements of the GOP? At the moment, no.
We are at a crossroads. On one side, we have the option of embracing the core elements of libertarianism, no matter what the opinions of the majority are. We can boldly say, “Government schools are welfare, let’s end them.” We can openly oppose the welfare state, no matter how unpopular that view is.
I remember when Libertarians were generally considered a-holes. There was a good reason for that. When someone would say things like, “But won’t gay marriage destroy strait marriage”, we would deride and insult that view, even if were alone in a room with our view. Today, Libertarians are often considered sort of nice and harmless. Republicans are considered the a-holes.
We might consider that a victory. It is not one. It means that we are not fighting for core values, and they are. It’s not because we’ve become more tactful or effective. It’s because we’ve become fearful and silent. In seeking approval for our ideology, we’ve learned little more than how to shut our mouths.
Standing up for values and policies usually involves standing up against something else. If we can’t do that, there is no point in our party.
We can be the nice party. Or we can be the Libertarian Party. Libertarianism involves, as step one, ending the welfare state and leaving people to do their best to survive. There’s no nice-guy way to present that. The closest you can get is to obfuscate using overly complex language (for an example of this, look at the Education plank in the current LP platform).
If we can stand boldly against welfarism in all of its popular form, we will be an important force in American politics.
If we’re just “nice Republicans with more empathy”, we will continue to exist. We might even grow in numbers. But we won’t matter.
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